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Synagogue is The New Dorm

198-70s-1 Topics discussed in late 70s ... rallying against nuclear war (Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia)
The writer E.E. Cummings
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones

Forty years ago I went to college, lived in a dorm and befriended Jenna Cole from Maple Hall across the quad. We grew up in the 1970s, a time when being proactive was considered inappropriate behavior and had loads in common: weirdness, a love for books, and taking risks. We had differences as well; I liked to sleep, and she wasn't sure what it was. I thought the "Stones" were the greatest rock 'n' roll band and she thought Mick Jagger was sexist {we both were right}. I tried college twice, never finishing. Jenna stayed in school earning her Masters, then a Ph.D. and is now a department chair head.

We speak a couple of times a year and share news about our kids and our life. When we spoke before the holidays she gave me this interesting update. "I just finished moving out of my office. They are beginning what will be a two-year renovation of the building. Guess where they are moving me and my staff? The dorm!"

That's right, 40 years after leaving the dorm life Jenna is moving back to it; she's...well you figure it out...40 odd years older than her dorm-mates. Immediately I saw the humor in this bizarre alignment of the planets, the trappings of dorm life having sharply changed these last four decades. I envisioned writing a TV serial sitcom. Episode 1 "Criminal Scented Candles." Episode 2 "The Beer Keg in the Closet," Episode 3 "You Call that Music?" etc.

As my imagination ran awash with these visions, I walked into my washroom and eyed the roll of toilet paper sitting miserably atop the toilet tank. The dispenser spool broke in 2001 and I haven't gotten around to replacing it.

My daughter tells her friends that her dad still thinks he lives in a dorm. "We don't have a proper paper dispenser in the bathroom, my father has a picture of The Beatles on the wall, and we have a picnic table in the kitchen." Is this a problem?

For me, the one thing I loved about college was not the partying and the girls, but rather the campus life. That incubator of interaction which hatched many ideas as I was turning and searching for something authentic and relevant that could effectively carry me over the alternating currents of my future while transcending dollar symbols.

Who didn't have the time of their life walking 25 feet to their buddy's room to simply hang out? What person can say they disliked the spontaneity of running into three friends when passing through the student center? Can anyone say they never learned a thing or two sitting around the lounge discussing the validity of E.E. Cummings or enjoying the inspiring solidarity of an anti-nuke rally? "Hell no, we won't glow!"

College was by far the bestest and finest planned community-NOT.

The greatest law Moses handed down was the prohibition against driving on the Sabbath and holidays. Because of this all of my friends live within a ten-minute walk of the synagogue and each other. You see, the synagogue has replaced the student center and my "shchuna," or neighborhood, has replaced the campus.

Living in North Miami Beach, Florida I can walk to an inspiring lecture at least once a week, or a class anytime, receive some enlightment, and find my friends there. I can go to a rally for Israel or a bris and feel solidarity. I can walk out my front door after placing a load in the washer, round the corner, knock on Isaac's door to enjoy a Coke and a smoke and be home before the rinse cycle is finished. Talk about spontaneity.

Jenna is going back to the dorm, but I never left it, just ask my daughter. Being an Orthodox Jew I am unsure if I ever even left the campus. We Jews are truly blessed.

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Monday, 22 July 2024

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