I am in Dallas, home to quite a surprising number of familiar faces. It was so nice to see Neve girls in the audience. One of them was in Neve back in 84! The best is that some started in Mechina and are presently Rebbizens, pillars of the community, and successful professionals who integrate their work lives with their Torah lives almost seamlessly. One of the things that I like best is the mechitzah in the shul. It is made out of one-way glass and extends from close to the floor to the ceiling sponsored by a ‘Neve girl’ who wanted to do the best and most halachically valid mechitzah possible sponsored it. I like the mechitzah itself, but I also am full of admiration for the woman who chose to do something instead of the far more usual choice of endless complaining or compulsively describing why you do not like the old mechitzah in picayune detail.
I also had the pleasure of meeting some women who didn't go to Neve, but who are part of my online community, the mother of one of my Bnos Avigail students and the mother of a future Bnos Avigail student. Dallas has a wonderful feeling. Everyone knows who they are, and want to go up! The city itself is fascinating; the land is flat, green, hot, and looks like the folks who invented Lego constructed it. The previous day, I was in Providence. They estimate that there are about a hundred shomrei Shabbos. The result is a homey mini-community where everyone knows each other, cares about each other, and tolerate each other the way people do when they live Out of Town.
When I ask myself at the end of the day, "What did I learn from this", the answers are so much more complex than they seem at first. I learn about the struggle to be yourself when you have to be your own support system. I saw how people choose excellence when it would be socially acceptable to settle on mediocrity or worse.
The day before that, I was in Boston. It is an old Jewish community, a place where 250,000 students study every day. There are numerous universities and colleges, some of which are famous; others are tiny and almost anonymous. It is estimated that about 30% off them are Jewish. The indigenous community is heavily committed to providing them with places that are what I would call a spiritual safe house. Places where they can count on acceptance, and experience what a Shabbos with people who are genuine. Many of the Neve girls have daughters who are totally integrated to the Torah community. They go to the best seminaries, and still take enormous pride in their parent's journey.
The largest B.T. community I saw so far was in Passaic. The community is suburban, middle class and blessedly normal. Living here has many of the advantages of living in Town without the awful crowding and impersonal interactions of the City.
I am about half way done with my trip to the States. I have so much to share with you, and so little time.
Part two of this letter is coming out of San Diego. There are two main communes here; that of Rabbi Bogopolski and that of Rabbi Wohlgelenter. I hope that I spelled their names right. It isn't exactly Smith and Jones. The two communities are geographically fairly distant from each other. The Tragic result is that there is no kosher restaurant. Think twice before you move to this incredibly beautiful, friendly and most of all accepting and normal place. They also have an impressive Bais Yaakov. I had two of the girls in Bnos Avigail, and will have other fresh faced wholesome intelligent students from there this coming year. You would never know that they live in the same universe as the kids from the University of San Diego, one of the most dedicated party schools in the States. Their teachers and parents must be amazing.
Well, it's soon going to be off to Oceanside (doesn't; the name sound inviting?)
Those of you in the States can call me at 848 565 4747 if you want to say hello or have a DMC.
All the best,