Monday, May 18, 2015

Place, Show, and Win- Why I'm excited to be part of Project Makom

I’ve been thinking about the reason that I had a panic-dream about a speaking opportunity that is about a month away. I have no problem doing things last minute. Heck, I thrive under that pressure. Back in  my college days, I was able to write a paper and complete a project two hours before they were due (I got a B on each, thank you very much). I love public speaking, and, on the rare occasions when I’ve had panic dreams, they’ve come the night before, rather than many weeks in advance. So why am I a little nervous about my opportunity to speak at the Project Makom shabbaton?

As soon as I heard about Project Makom, I volunteered. Having heard about, and witnessed the serious challenges involved in moving from one’s religious community, I was excited about the opportunity to be part of an organization that makes such a transition easier. Regardless of the destination of the person who chooses to leave the charedi community in which they grew up, it seems obvious to me that, we, both as individuals and as a community, should want them to land on their feet. As such, and I hope this is not too shocking, in some ways I see Project Makom and Footsteps as being two sides of the same coin, in that we both want to help former charedim transition to a healthy and productive life.

Which brings me back to my speech. What is it that I would like to say? Most obviously, while the people involved in Project Makom are, more or less, Modern-Orthodox (I wish we could move past labels), it is important that we recognize that we have much to gain, and not just give, by welcoming former charedim into our community. While there is much that is positive in the MO world, like all communities, it is far from perfect. To cite just one example of many, I have many times been moved by the warmth and passion that I have found when davening, or having shalosh seudos with various chassidic communities. It is my hope that by welcoming more people who come from chassidic communities into our community, that our davening and zemiros will get a much needed boost.

It is in thinking about the gains that both sides will make, that I start to get a slightly mischievous thought in my mind. Perhaps what we are really doing at Project Makom is not welcoming former chassidim into the Modern Orthodox world. Perhaps we are really all just joining together and going back to the roots of the chassidic world. A world where there is little need for hierarchy. A world where “B’chol drechecha da’eihu” is truly a guiding principal. A world where Jews of all types and stripes can learn, sing, and speak together. If that is what we are able to do, I am hopeful that HaShem, who is the true Makom, will bless Project Makom with success.

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