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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Purimspiel

We went to our little shul's Purim party last night. Many of our friends and coreligionists of the last eight years that we've davened here, were there last night. The food, as always, was excellent (thank you, Gittel) and the music exciting. Our Israeli contingent showed up with their little ones, and the non-frum moms who go to Chabad's preschool also came with their little ones, knowing full well that this is the liveliest Purim party in the county. It was a smaller crowd than in years past, though, and while part of it was the cold, blustery weather and the long mid-week work day, some of it is that our community appears to be shrinking. Our younger families are moving away -- to Los Angeles, to Winnipeg, to Israel, to New Jersey, to Pittsburg. They are moving to places which have Jewish schools for their children, a bigger Jewish community and more opportunities for adult Jewish learning. Those who remain are those whose work or age or family ties keep them here. The non-frum stay because the locale is beautiful, the jobs pay well and they are ambivalent about their children's Jewishness in any event. To them, it is an ethnic heritage, and doesn't offend their multiculturalism so long as it never overrides their identity as assimilated western humanists. But while the non-frum will come to the Purim parties, they won't support the mikveh, bar-mitzvah their boys here, or make up our minyans. I will miss all of them. They've been part of the patchwork of our community for so long....we miss the ones who have left, although we wish them well and understand that their families' better future lies outside this beautiful but lackadaisically Jewish region. It's hard for me to imagine living somewhere where you don't have to struggle to assemble a weekday minyan and Jewish day school is a given. I give Chabad tremendous credit for this outpost of Jewish outreach in an area where the car one drives and the house one lives in are considered by all far more important than the spiritual dimension of one's life, (unless you are a vegan who meditates at Spirit Rock and studies Buddhism--THEN you're really cool!). Our rabbi and rebbetzin are warm, caring, nonjudgemental people who have dedicated their lives to keeping the light of each Jewish soul kindled, and they've done it with humor and good grace in the face of tremendous odds. I will miss them.

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