Kensington Market. Jerusalem. High Holy Days. They all evoke similar feelings in me. Is that the weirdest thing? It actually seemed like the most natural thing as I walked through Kensington last Sunday.
The Sesame Street song, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here” just began playing in my head – reminding me that the High Holy Days are NOT a place – so they don’t belong in a grouping with Jerusalem and Kensington Market. But the thing is that all three are a magnet and a conductor for me. Regardless of their physical (and non-physical) properties.
It’s pretty bold, I know, for someone who hasn’t taken physics since Grade 10 Science (which I don’t remember doing so very well in) to throw around terms like ‘magnet’ and ‘conductor’. I mean that when I walk through Kensington, Jerusalem and the High Holy Days I feel like a magnet for excited feelings of belonging and that they feel so electric that I radiate them out like sparks.
When I walk through Kensington I feel a sense of electricity. Not the shocking kind. The kind where I feel particularly alert and awake. I love how everything looks – stores, streets and people. It feels old world and one of the best versions of our current world that I know. I sat at the front of Jimmy’s Coffee on Baldwin, enjoying very yummy coffee and closed my eyes and imagined (with little effort) what it might have looked like out that window a hundred years ago. I imagined Jews who looked like a picture of that I have of my great grandparents and our cousins that was taken when my great grandmother was pregnant with my grandmother Bernie. My Jewish family was in New Jersey and New York in the 1920s, not in Kensington Market – but in my imagination it all bonds together. As I sat and imagined, I felt the emotions wash over me – I missed my grandmother and wanted to be there with her. I wondered if others feel the same in Kensington. I felt like a citizen of the world and a citizen of time. I felt like a Jew. I felt like I belonged.
Jerusalem is the same for me. When I walked the streets of Jerusalem – old and new – I felt many moments in time converging in one as I looked around and felt a sense of wonder, awe and being grounded – all at the same time. Even as I sit typing this in my living room, I only need to close my eyes to feel the cool Jerusalem stone pressing against my forehead as I leaned into the Wall and felt connected to all the people who were around me and came before me. They felt related to me – in body and also in some other way that I don’t yet have words for. When I walked the streets of Jerusalem, I loved the sound of Hebrew, Arabic, English and languages I didn’t recognize. I felt like a citizen of the world and a citizen of time. I felt like a Jew. I felt like I belonged.
When I was growing up, I don’t remember thinking about myself as Jewish every day. But, I do remember thinking about myself as Jewish when the Holidays would arrive each fall. For starters, I needed to be Jewish to miss school. Then, there was the shared Jewish experience that my few Jewish friends and I would compare notes on when we returned to school. Mostly about fasting. (Sorry to my rabbi friends – we weren’t talking about the sermons.) That was the beginning of linking feeling Jewish to this time of year.
In August, when I heard the words and melody of Achat Shaalti (Psalm 27:4), I felt something stir inside of me. Like my sensations in Kensington and Jerusalem, it is a feeling of standing in time and having a torrent of what has come before and what lies in front of me awaken within me. It is a feeling that I also associate with Avinu Malkeinu and many moments of standing together through the Holidays. I think about my family who have come before me and said the same words. I think about the people all over the world swaying in unison. I feel like a citizen of the world and a citizen of the world. I feel like a Jew. I feel like I belong.
Magnets. Conductors. Sparks. I know it couldn’t be ‘punnier’, but these words all send feelings of electricity up and down my body. I think that’s what belonging does. Makes me feel awake and excited. The more I seek and become aware of feeling like this, the more I want it. It’s returning and looking forward at the same time. Mental and physical pilgrimages.
I look forward to seeing you all: in Kensington. In Jerusalem. At Kol Ami for High Holy Days – or wherever we meet next on our pilgrimages : )