So last month I wrote Confessions of an Unaffiliated Jew where I explained that one of the reasons our family is still unaffiliated 14 years after moving here is that we’ve found the Twin Cities Jewish community to be very (very) hard to break into. In the tradition of personal essay writers before me, I wrote my heart, clicked send, and crossed my fingers for the best.
The responses to my article were fascinating, and I would say could be sorted into two groups.
The first group wanted to engage in a thoughtful conversation about what really happened all the times we tried going to synagogue. Many people had stories that mirrored mine, others had observed similar occurrences, and others disagreed with me completely; their experiences differed from mine and that was the end of that.
Still others wanted to dissect my roll in things. Had I been friendly enough? Put enough effort into the community? Extended enough invitations? Accepted enough of the invitations that came my way?
I tend to land on the side of there always being room for improvement. We can all always do better, myself included, and I think that these commenters were absolutely right: I could have definitely been all of these mores throughout the years.
I will daresay, however, that when you have the upper hand, when you’re the one who’s at “home” with your friends and established community, then you, too, can do more.
I was grateful for the dialogue that ensued. I wasn’t quite sure what my role in it was, but I always love a good discussion and I think this is a worthy one. How does one join an established community? And, equally importantly, how does one let others into their established community?
Which leads me to the second category of article responders: About a dozen of you reached out to me via email and Facebook to say, I’m here, let’s talk. To which my response was, of course, Let’s do this.
So the title of my article this month is a play on Rachel Bertsche’s fabulous book, MWF Seeking BFF, about the 52 friend dates Bertsche went on in a quest for a new best friend in her adopted town of Chicago.
I love Minnesota. It’s where all of my babies were born and where I found my writing voice. I love the way the guys in our neighborhood crossed yards this week to help each other move lawn furniture, unload new snow blowers, get rid of the last leaves in preparation for the first snow fall. I love the State Fair and the tap rooms and all of our lakes and the collective sigh and high-5 we all give each other during spring’s first thaw (only five months away now!). I think that hot dishes and crock pots and lawn chairs on driveways on long summer nights are the things that a good life are made of. And yet, Minnesota is my adopted state, and I feel that in my core when it comes to my Jewish community.
So following in Bertsche’s tradition, this year I’m going on Jewish friend dates.
I’m not sure if I’ll have 52 of them or where they’ll lead, but for right now, I’m excited and honored and happy to have them on my calendar. There has already been a delicious lunch at Shish with an unlikely, but definite, SisterHeart and coffee with a rabbi whose story comes full circle with my own. I also have Thai and bagels and a Shabbat dinner or two already on the calendar.
I’ll write about my “dates” here monthly – about the dialogue we engage in, the issues we tackle, maybe the food we eat. And, ultimately, through these dates I’m going to try to find two things.
The first are the answers to my big questions: How does one join an established community? And how can people in that community let newbies in?
And the second “thing” I’m hoping to find is a Jewish community of my own.
I hope you follow along and continue to share your thoughts with me about my big questions as a Married Jewish Female Seeking Jewish BFFs in The Cities.
What are your first thoughts about the best ways to join a community? And, on the flipside, what do you think is the roll of that community in letting in newcomers?