My adrenaline is still rushing, my heart is still pounding, and, most importantly, my mind is still racing after attending Jewlicious Festival 5.0 this past weekend. Not only did I dance at the Saturday night concert and sing along at the 45-minute Havdallah Jam, I also discussed environmental activism with passionate young people in an event called “Why We Give A Damn.” What a breath of fresh air!
I wouldn’t consider myself a very observant Jew. Yes, my family does Shabbat dinner every Friday night: my mom makes challah most of the time and we say our prayers. But, I don’t keep kosher, I drive on the Sabbath, I eat pepperoni pizza. Rather than being a setback, my lack of observance was a blessing at the Jewlicious Festival. It just meant that I had that much more to learn from the broad range of Jews.
I learned that some people dip challah into salt after they do the Hamotzi. I learned that women and men dancing separately isn’t that strange. I learned that I can relate to Orthodox Jews. And they can relate to me.
After Orthodox Rabbi Simcha Levenberg brought the house down with his PG-rated comedy performance about his family and his life as a rabbi, we sat down and talked. Although he had a long beard, I wasn’t nervous or thinking that maybe he was judging my lack of Jewishness. We talked about how he got into comedy and his love of improvisational acting.
After this weekend, I feel a sense of relief knowing that the Jewish community isn’t as fractured as I thought it was. Abi Weber from Pomona College agreed with me. Weber said, “What really surprised me was how pluralistic [the Jewlicious Festival] is and how that works. I grew up going to a lot, a lot of Jewish events. And all of the events I went to growing up were mostly conservative. And then I was in Israel for a year and it was mostly Orthodox events. This is the first event I’ve been to where they successfully have had really religious people and totally, totally unobserving, secular Jews and it somehow works. It’s very impressive.”
Amen to that.
See more pictures from this year’s Jewlicious Festival 5.0 here.