Sunday, August 12, 2007

Al galgalim, al galgalim, al galgalim, TUTE TUTE

I'm back from a week in New Hampshire at Franklin Pierce University (known until recently as Franklin Pierce College) for the NHC Summer Institute. As always, re-entering the world is a culture shock, but blogging eases the transition. Like last year, I'll be posting an Institute blog roundup, but I'll give everyone a couple days to get home and write their post-Institute posts. In the meantime, you can look at Institute photos on Flickr, and add your own to the slideshow by posting them to Flickr and tagging them "nhcInstitute2007".

Some disconnected and unordered thoughts and highlights from Institute '07:
  • As I blogged on Jewschool, the city to watch over the next few months is Chicago. I had the opportunity to talk to a number of Chicagoans who are fired up to create grassroots Jewish community when they get home. In response, some people are saying that stuff is already going on there. Though Chicago is my hometown and I visit several times a year, I have no firsthand knowledge of what is or isn't going on in the independent Jewish scene, since I'm generally there at times like Thanksgiving and Pesach (when independent communities that don't meet every week won't be meeting if they can help it) or for family events. So I'll stay out of the fray and leave it to the Chicagoans to sort out for themselves what is or isn't happening, and hopefully to augment it substantially.
  • The NHC board voted this week to implement a new scholarship program (inspired by Limmud NY), beginning with the 2008 Institute, that will make Institute much more financially accessible so that no one is turned away because of the cost. This is contingent on meeting our fundraising goal by December 31, 2007, so that we'll know in time for the brochure deadline whether there are sufficient funds to offer the scholarships for the '08 Institute. This is huge. So if you're interested in making the Institute accessible to everyone regardless of financial situation, please consider making a donation, and if you're interested in participating in the Institute but have been deterred in the past by the cost, then I look forward to seeing you at the 2008 Institute!
  • Massive props to SF and the rest of the DC-based planning committee for throwing an excellent Institute! B'hatzlachah to Kung Fu Jew and ASB, who are co-chairing in 2008! (August 11-17, 2008, back in Rindge. Be there.)
  • After seven previous Institutes at Franklin Pierce, Institute kabbalat shabbat has finally found a worthy vessel to contain it, for the first time in this century. No more field house (2000-05) or tent (2006); the newly constructed Pierce Hall has enough space for the whole community and acoustics to properly harness the community's ruach. With the expanded dining hall, there's plenty of room for the Institute to grow in future years.
  • As usual, no matter how rainy it gets during the week, the weather always turns perfect in time for Shabbat. But if we're going to pray outside on Shabbat morning, there are some lessons to be learned. As Kol Zimrah once learned the hard way, sitting in a circle with empty space in the middle is no good when you're outdoors; everyone has to move closer together.
  • The folk version of the Humpty Dance wasn't my idea. I first heard it from someone at Hillel Leaders Assembly in 1999, but I never got his name, so I can't give him proper credit. If you're out there, please identify yourself so that you can be credited.
  • My morning class, "The Gospels as Midrash: A Jewish Reading of the New Testament", and my afternoon class, "Advanced Talmud: White Sheets and Groomsmen, or: The Wedding Night", were both fantastic -- so much that they inspired me to do violence to my sleep cycle, even more than Institute usually does. Joseph Sievers, who is a Catholic priest, a professor of Jewish studies, and the pope's top advisor about Judaism, was teaching a course at Institute about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and was also doing mass every morning at 7. Since my morning class dealt with related issues, we had an optional "field trip" to go watch mass. This was my second time seeing mass, and the first time was during the living wage sit-in, so both times were with lots of Jews. So I was up at 7 on Wednesday, not so many hours after going to bed the night before (when we had a Jewschool meeting), and after mass I popped in for the end of trad-egal shacharit, and then there was time for a brief nap after breakfast, but then I realized that I was leading a morning workshop, going to morning class (where we were discussing the field trip, and similarities and differences with Jewish texts), lunch, extended-format afternoon class, NHC board meeting, dinner, and musical maariv (led by LastTrumpet), with no chances for a break in between. I had had qualms about signing up for my first extended-format class, because it meant missing afternoon workshops every day, but went ahead with it because I didn't want to pass up the opportunity for advanced Talmud study. Once I got to Institute and got caught up in the frenetic pace, I realized that I should have been worried not about missing afternoon workshops, but about missing the ability to sleep through afternoon workshops. Since I didn't want to miss any of these things, but also couldn't see how I was going to stay awake the whole day, I did the unthinkable at lunch. Normally, I never drink caffeine. This means that I haven't built up a tolerance to it, so a little bit goes a long way. I had half a cup of (fair-trade "Havurah Roast") coffee at lunch (mixed with ice cream), and it successfully kept me up for the next 12 hours (my planned evening nap didn't materialize). Now I think I have a small glimpse into my students' lives. It's totally ok to skip activities and take naps when necessary (at 'tute, not at school!); I just didn't want to. Do as I say, not as I do.
  • The people working on the EJ project made a siyyum on the letter L. The Leo Baeck Institute got a shout-out. They're doing the letters out of order, and next year they'll be finishing the whole thing, concluding with V, W, Y, and Z (having done X already). Next step: Sefer Ha-Bloggadah. More on that coming soon.
  • I saw a copy of the new book, The Family Flamboyant: Race Politics, Queer Families, Jewish Lives, by Marla Brettschneider (who was at Institute), and the acknowledgements include Kol Zimrah! I think this is a first.
  • I also saw a copy of the new book, Inventing Jewish Ritual, by Vanessa Ochs, and it includes an extensive ethnomusicological case study on the three-part "e-o" round!
  • I saw a Perseid!
  • There are at least 11 people who were at this Institute who will be in Israel for the coming year. So for everyone else, this is a great year to come and visit!
That's all for now. More later.


  1. Alan Scott BelskyAugust 13, 2007 12:19 PM

    ASB are my initials... Do I have to fight Abby for them now? Especially since I'll be volunteering to help with as much as I can?

    Btw, it was cool to spend some time with you at the 'tute!

  2. Sorry we missed it! Great news about the commitment to financial accessibility!

  3. I'm looking forward to the round-up.

  4. alan - before i saw your comment, i was going to email you and ask if you were chairing the event, and ask if there was a role that you could envision for me there. too bad. maybe next year ;-)

  5. ADDeRabbi-
    You should come anyway!

  6. alan scott belskyAugust 14, 2007 2:56 PM

    Hi AddeRabbi, fancy meeting you here :)

    I was at Institute this year as an Everett Fellow and loved it. I think you & the AddeRebbitzen would get something out of it too, depending on your comfort level with immersion in non-Orthodox stuff.

    For instance:
    the food was all kosher, with a mashgiach who was there all the time,
    and there was an eruv built for shabbos,
    BUT every davenning was egalitarian, and I'm not sure if the microphone in the room where we did Kabalat Shabat was still on when maariv started (anyone know?)

    Also, there was a lot of documentary hypothesis in the classes, etc. (I know you're comfortable around that though)

    Someone described Havurah Institute's religious diversity to me thusly: "pluralistic, but lacking in pagans and frummies"

  7. alan: Yes, the mic was on for Kabb Shabb and Ma'ariv. It's NHC policy that a mic can be used on Shabbat, and it usually has been for Friday night services because otherwise people complain about not being able to hear.

  8. every davenning was egalitarian

    The policy is that all davening organized by the planning committee is egalitarian, but anyone who wants to organize a minyan in another style is welcome to do so, and will be provided with a room and a sefer torah. I don't think anyone has in recent years, but that doesn't mean they can't.

  9. Part of the other issue is that when you come to town you're down in HF, not up in Lakeview...

    fyi- its not a competition or a fray. like i said, the more the merrier. I wish peeps like lily would make themselves a bit better known. But more generally there are people doing things here, and Jewschool shouldn't treat our hometown like a backwater. Things do happen but the number and culture here indie jews is different.

    I know Melissa came back charged up and I'm sure good things will happen. We've needed some new blood and for some people to see what parallel groups in other towns have down, so its all good...

  10. Great post! A small correction: Joseph S. isn't actually the Pope's top advisor about Judaism-- I believe he mentioned at a workshop that he's only met the Pope once since he became Pope, and that he (Joseph) sometimes learns about important events in Catholic-Jewish relations only from friends on other continents.

  11. I'd still like to come next year, but I don't like the microphone on shabbat thing. Is that a community-wide minyan, or are there others?

  12. Kabbalat shabbat and maariv are community-wide. There are multiple options on Shabbat morning, and I don't think any of them use a microphone.