Confession: I have long feared Orthodox Jews. Particularly the tzitzit, beard or sheitel wearing, Ball Shem Tov knowing, Chabad loving, Monsey NY going, Shomer Shabbat Jew. This fear is second only to the Haredi sects whom I have a feeling feel the same way about me.
My fear is less boogieman based but rather a combination of fascination and the anxiety that every word out of my mouth would be considered blasphemous resulting in my imminent death…not to mention I would more than likely be heavily mocked by my seemingly secular Jewish ways. Having said this, I accepted an invitation to attend a festive musical Shabbos with a promised group of very “chill” Orthodox Jews in the bungalow colony territory of Monticello, New York.
On our way to Monticello we passed by the infamous town of Monsey, New York. I wish I had taken photos as when I lived in Boro Park eight years ago this Ultra Orthodox country getaway was publicized everywhere…there were even buses complete with curtains separating the men from the women enroute to this popular vacation destination that I had never heard of.
I arrived in beautiful Monticello and immediately met a group of individuals who despite being Orthodox in the aforementioned ways were funny, warm and inviting…not to mention musical and extremely skilled cooks. My fears immediately dissipated. Over the course of Shabbos the following things happened:
1. I learned there are a billion and one Jewish songs with a variety of melodies…and some people know every single one of them.
2. I touched my first sheitel…and learned that just because you wear one doesn’t mean you shaved your head.
3. Orthodox Jews can be 420 friendly.
4. I saw my first tzitzit poncho.
5. Being less observant means I can turn on the hot water knob in the shower for others #ShabbosGoy
7. I was not mocked even once for my lack of knowledge, sailor vocabulary or because my name is Chriss.
9. You can celebrate your birthday everyday thanks to Reb Nachman.
10. Being Shomer Shabbat is kinda hot. Yes, I said it.
11. I really, really, really need to learn Hebrew. Everybody spoke Hebrew! I was amazed however at how much conversation I could pick up with the few words I knew and via body language.
12. I think I’ve settled on the name “Liat” as my Hebrew name.
13. Fears are stupid. Fears are based on ignorance.
I came back from Shabbos feeling rested, joyful and with a rejuvenated sense of spiritual purpose.