A Window Into My World, or How Jimi Hendrix Brings Us All Together

*This happened a number of years ago, and I’m writing about it now because, well, I finally got around to it.  I thought I would share a little bit of the Rebbetzin side of things – my thoughts when we socialize in conjunction with members of our temple.  It’s something people ask me about a lot.  The band we saw still rocks, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon! 

A member of our synagogue is in a band (let’s call him “Ralph”), and we went to hear them at this local place in a nearby suburb. The place is a right up our alley. Deco, small, cool.  It happens to be located in a very ‘whitebread’ suburb.  Kind of incongruous, but a really cool place – it used to be more of a joint, it’s gone a bit upscale, but still cool.  Lots of this guy’s friends and family came to hear the band, and it turns out the lead singer happens to be an Israeli woman who is one of the Hebrew teachers at my kids’ school.  Who knew?  There were more MOTs in this place tonight than in the last 50 years combined.  And you gotta give it up for a bunch of Jews playing Jimi Hendrix.  Seriously.  The band was fantastic, and the lead guitarist really outdid himself with both Hendrix and the Dead (shout out to “Ralph” the bass player as well!).

Everyone was really surprised to see us there.  There were many congregants who came to see “Ralph”, and several pairs of eyes popped out of their heads when they saw us.  Mr. EK had a beer (I am getting too old for my Old Fashioned, and someone had to drive back to where the Jews live), and people were like “Yo, Rabbi – Duuude!”  The lead singer/Hebrew teacher came up to us in the middle of the first set, and said “Now I know I have divine guidance for my singing!”

Because Mr. EK is a direct conduit to the Almighty, right there in the bar.  In Whitebreadville.

He jokingly said to her “Oh, yeah, I give you my hechsher (seal of approval)!”  She laughed, and then went back to singing.

Here is what I want to tell you: we are just regular folks; if we were a restaurant, we’d be a classy diner (if I may say so!).  We are not necessarily the ‘brood-in-the-coffeeshop-exploring-what-Levinas-meant-by-Other’ type of people.  Not to say we are unintellectual, but we are as much a guy/gal who hangs out in a joint as we are serious learners (as are our colleague and his wife.  We can talk together about what it means to walk the path of Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu, the future of the Jewish people and our congregation, AND this week’s box scores, all over fries and shakes at Tommy’s.  MAN are we lucky!  And Go Tribe.  *AHEM*).

We happen to serve a large congregation with a lot of intelligent, worldly congregants.  Many sound intimidating, what with the myriad of books published or papers given, or the amount of money earned and managed.  And yet, the beautiful thing about Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple is that these same people are down to earth, care about our community and the Jewish people, and care about what they are doing and the world around them.  Menschlich people, with whom it is a pleasure to spend time.

Which is why I sometimes forget that many people don’t see us like they see ‘regular’ people.  I don’t know why I am always taken aback by the whole “What are the Rabbi and his wife doing in a place like this holding a beer” thing.  Which, as I used to feel that way about my own rabbi/cantor, I completely understand.  You forget that there is a human behind the title who brushes his/her teeth in the morning, and has a beer on a Saturday night just like everyone else.

While I know most clergy families value their privacy, and we certainly do, we love having an actual social life and don’t feel “burdened” or “always having to be ON” when we’re out.  While we certainly don’t want people coming over and sitting themselves down at our table (yes, that has happened to us), we LIVE here.  Most people are pretty respectful of our time and privacy.  It’s all good.  It’s refreshing to be involved in bits and pieces of people’s personal lives that do not revolve around a deceased family member.  Shared interests and experiences connect us in a nice way without crossing boundaries.  This can only aid our goals of bringing Torah and Jewish life to everyone.  I know, I know. SO predictable.  But ya know.  It’s kinda what we do :-)

But that wasn’t why we were at the place in Whitebreadville.

We were there because THE BAND FREAKING ROCKS.

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