Two Mondays ago, SGG and I set out at the crack of dawn for New Hampshire. After a nice traffic-free drive (during which my car did that freaky speedometer-flopping-around thing again...the dealership helpfully told me that I have a broken speedometer), we arrived in Rindge, NH early to kick off a beautiful week at the National Havurah Committee's Summer Institute.
This year, it really felt like something had tangibly shifted in the NHC community. It was partly because BZ and ER were co-chairs, the first time to my knowledge that the two people in charge (and, for that matter, most or all of their planning committee) were both born after 1970. The under-35 energy there was astounding. And from what I hear, the older folks, far from being bothered by this, are generally welcoming it, exhausted as they are from keeping their Jewish scenes humming the past few decades.
But it wasn't just that. The whole event just felt much less isolated than in the past, in terms of both the Jewish and secular worlds. Nearly half of the crew of Everett fellows were bloggers. There were a lot of new attendees from the already active NYC and DC (and even Philly!) independent Jewish communities. By the time Shabbat rolled around, the number of people there who I knew from other scenes was just astounding; there were certainly enough to make people from their home communities wonder why so many folks were missing, thus spreading the good word about the NHC even more. And then there were the sweatshop-free t-shirts, the fair-trade coffee, the constant talk about and even phone-banking for the Lamont/Lieberman primary (thanks in large part to Ruby K), and the excellent evening program facilitated by Brent Chaim Spodek about Jewish ethics. The politics were out there. The sense, more so than in my past institutes, was that we were part of something greater, and not just there for a week to better ourselves and perhaps our own little communities. There was enough energy there that things might just explode by the 2007 'tute. We shall see. But things are looking bright.
Of course, things within the Institute itself were quite incredible, as usual. It was very nice to be back in classes this year after spending my days working in the Institute office last summer. There were some great workshops, especially ER's updating us on the state of ordination of gays at JTS and Mitch's reading from his new book and discussing where stories come from. (Workshops are best when the teacher is talking about something they care so passionately about.) I skipped the Mount Monadnock hike again this year, but fully intend to go next year. There was non-stop music and singing, something that might've been drifting away from the Institute week in recent years. There were late nights and groggy people at morning minyan. There was a kick-ass outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat. There was community, more so than anywhere else I know. Changing community, but growing and learning and thriving.
(Read more about Institute via BZ's meta post, if you'd like.)
[To be continued...]