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Curiouser and curiouser

I was at Hillel tonight, hanging around waiting for services to begin, when I thought I saw a face I recognized. In a university of over 50,000 people, where most of my friends are Gentile graduate students, I thought I recognized someone at the mostly undergraduate Hillel. He went to the Conservative service, and I went to the Reform service, but we all met up for dinner afterwards. He came straight to my table, and lo and behold! He and I went to The Fairest College together! He was a freshling when I was a senior, so he recognized me before I recognized him, but. . . weird. The Fairest College has 1,600 students. The University has 50,000. The Fairest College is in an entirely different time zone than the University. What are the odds that I'd run into another Fairest College graduate, at the University, at Hillel, one ordinary Friday night? One can never escape one's alma mater. . .

Random meetings with old acquaintances aside, it's strange to be going to Hillel again after five years of a regular city shul. There's a distinct Hillel culture, and it's frightening how easily it comes back. All the summer-camp-style singing, the gung-ho, let's-all-have-us-some-nice-Jewish_fun! atmosphere, and a certain sense of being somewhat disconnected.

I haven't yet decided how I feel about the University Hillel. Certainly, I don't feel the same way about it as I did going to Hillel at The Fairest College as an undergrad. There are a few obvious differences, size being the main one. University Hillel is a much bigger operation. And it's affiliated with national Hillel, whereas the one at The Fairest College wasn't. And I'm older now, and I've been out of school and attending a real shul. So maybe it's just my perspective that's changed.

Whatever it is, I think there's something a little melancholy about University Hillel. It's large, as I said, and rather impersonal. The undergrads all seem to know each other, and they squeal and hug as they gather for services. Then services begin. The leaders read very quickly, and a little too brightly, and cover up a certain tentativeness in the singing with a guitar. A student stands and rattles off a short d'var Torah. Underneath it all, it feels desperate and a tiny bit frightened.

I guess that's natural. Most of the Hillel attendees are undergraduates, just beginning to step out from their home communities, suddenly having to forge their own religious life. They're eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, and suddenly they have to be cantor and rabbi and Make It Happen. And it's all Different. They'll come through it just fine, and I hope that they'll all graduate and find apartments a few blocks away from a lovely warm welcoming shul, like I did, and begin to make a community for themselves there. But in the meantime, they're neither here nor there, in a place that isn't quite a shul and isn't quite school. It reminds me of the time I spent thirteen hours in the train station in Milan. After a while, it becomes familiar, but it isn't a place to stay. People are always coming and going. It's exciting, but sad at the same time.

Hillel at The Fairest College was smaller, and could afford to be more intimate and personal. I think I liked it better then. Maybe it was just as desperate and I just didn't notice it, but I think the smaller group was better able to deal with the rupture and loneliness of trying to form a religious community at college. I find University Hillel much more difficult. Shabbat isn't nearly as joyous as it was. The prayer that comes easiest to me now is the Mi Shebeirach, for healing. Something about University Hillel is wounded, and I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe there really is that undercurrent of panic beneath the careful greetings and camp-counselor perkiness. Maybe a little of both.

I don't know how I feel about this Hillel. I want to like it, because I remember how much I liked Hillel at The Fairest College. Maybe I'll get used to it again. Maybe not. I'll give it a semester and see.</lj>


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 29th, 2005 08:59 am (UTC)
It's a small world.
There's a reason for that cliche that it's a small world.

I've seen or run into people in the darnest ways.

-Went to summer camp in Massachussetts, run into a few people at a Long Island, NY mall.

-Went looking around for sites that list something somewhat esoteric. On about the only site that lists URLS, and not that many of them, found boldly displayed the link to a friends' material.

-All kinds of other smaller examples, and a few wierd ones. lol.

-Spot former college roomie on the local news. Then, again, she's the anchor. Then again, I went to Uni in Florida, and this is NY.

I think the oddest though can be the flat out coincidences that aren't quite small world. Your post reminded me a bit of one.

(Mother met her second husband at a Barmitzvah, and wound up jawing with him at the after party. They were the only two Roman Catholics in the crowd.)

Jan. 29th, 2005 02:42 pm (UTC)
Re: It's a small world.
In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn't have been quite so surprised to see this guy. I do have a habit of running into people I know. I lived in New York City for a summer, and about every week and a half, I'd run into an acquaintance in Manhattan. It's an island with ten million people on it, but every week and a half, like clockwork, it would cough up someone I knew. One of them even turned out to be living in the same building as me.

Your mom certainly has great material for a family legend there. How did she and he know the Bar Mitzvah boy?
Jan. 30th, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
Re: It's a small world.
Oh yeah, family legend might just be the word. lol.

My mother and father were very good friends with the parents of said Bar Mitzvah boy (I think my Mom knew his Mom before she was married to the Bar Mitzvah boy's father, from work, or school, or something). I grew up playing with him and his sister. My Father passed on not long before the event. It was actually I think the first social function we attended after his death.

She'd been married to my dad for something like 28 years. That placed her still in her mid-forties. (He was several years older than her, and she didn't have me until late. I was just twelve at that point, mid-thirties now, though he was actually a World War II vet.)

Anyway, the now stepfather was in the middle of a separation, that ultimately became a divorce. He was one of the best friends of the Bar Mitzvah boy's father, and had known him for years and years, worked with him, had all kinds of adventures with him. My mother kept in touch, and later started to date him. They've been together something like 23 years, and for all my other complaints about the guy, he's always loved my Mom, so that's good.

We still do family type barbque stuff together, and have a yearly ritual involving going over for matzah brie, and often for the Super Bowl. I think I've actually stayed closer to the parents than the kids.

Jan. 29th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
My son had a friend in college who turned out to be the son of my husband's graduate school room mate. This wasn't a commuter school either. The friend was from out of state and the lived in the same dorm. They were friends for two years before we made the connection.

And I was at a faculty assembly not too long ago and this guy came up and said, "Didn't you go to Small, Undistinguished College Two States Away?" Mind you, that was a number of years back. But it turned out he was a senior while I was a freshman. Undistinguished College had about 2000 students too. I was flattered that any one who knew me at 18 could still recognize me.
Jan. 29th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC)
One of my freshling roomies was the legacy daughter of a guy my mom had dated briefly in college. My mom went to school down the road, since The Fairest College did not admit women at the time, and girls from her school were always dating boys from The Fairest College. When my mom and I drove up there for moving-in, we met Roomie and her dad, and my mom got a good look at what she'd turned down thirty years before. She decided she was glad she'd turned him down for my dad.

We figured it out when the College sent us the roommate information sheet over the summer, because Roomie's last name, which was her dad's, was fairly distinctive. He's a semi-famous screenwriter, so when she called, and I asked, "Is your Dad Mr. X?" she said "yes" in a very bored voice. But she got a lot more interested when I replied, "Oh. I think my mom dated your dad when they were in college."

Somehow, I don't think that's the trend that conversation usually takes with her.
Jan. 29th, 2005 11:35 pm (UTC)
Pony, forgive me for doing this this way, but I can't find an email address for you. I've written a scene using that fencing drill you described to me. Would you be willing to look at it and see if I've said anything stupid and maybe suggest a detail or two? It's only a page or so.

My email is dawinsor@mchsi.com

Jan. 30th, 2005 02:39 pm (UTC)

*runs and curls up in teeny tiny dark hidey-hole*

You'll either think I'm a horrible person or a tremendous coward for saying this. And I don't know which would be a worse thing to have you think about me. I don't mean to be bad. But I'm not yet brave enough to send you my e-mail. Because that would come with my name and then you'd know that and you'd be able to find out things about me and where I go to school, and then I'd have to turn into a real person and I don't know if I'm brave enough for that. And it makes me sad because you're a very nice person and maybe one day I'll be brave enough to meet you, but I'd have to really screw up my courage for that, and that might take some time.

And the thing is, I know you want that scene read as soon as possible, and it's just a little thing and it would make you happy, and I really should try to screw up my courage Right Now, but perhaps it will take a while. This is the drill that begins with "Legolas" in the middle between "Turgon" and "Annael," right? And it'd be real fun to see you write about that, so maybe I could be brave if you want me to be, but I don't know if I can make myself brave fast enough. Maybe I'll give you my e-mail, because you're a nice person. But it's scary. Can I think about it for a little longer?
Jan. 30th, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
LOL. Ok. Here's another way to go. I can put the scene up on my LJ in a post that only you and I can see. I'll go do that right now.
Jan. 31st, 2005 05:43 am (UTC)
If you need a work around account....
You can always set up for free with something like hotmail/msn. You can pretty much have it so that it's annonymous to whomever, sending out under a nickname. Just log into it at least once a month. lol.

I set those up under initials, and such, and hide the personal facts I do feel I have to give to set up. Even if you do get my last name, it's common as dirt

(And I make pretty sure that doesn't display, anyway, because I, like you, am a privacy person. I don't even tend to give out my real FIRST name until you've known me a year.)

It wasn't even until recently that I started listing my AOL account email addys. LOL. Those don't display a real name, tho.

Anyway, if you want, it's a good way to send and receive internet communications off board. I also at one point maintained a PO box for that reason. My friends and I could then exchange Holiday cards and things, and I didn't have to worry.

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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