Have you ever been Jewbarrassed? It’s a word that describes the embarrassment of feeling we’re supposed to know something Jewish, but we don’t. For example, we might feel Jewbarrassed when people sing birkat hamazon, grace after meals, and everyone but us seems to know the words. Or, maybe we feel it in that moment of not being sure whether to stand or sit during part of the service on Shabbat. Or, maybe we feel it when we offer to meet a friend for pizza during Passover because we forgot that some Jews don’t eat chametz, leavened foods, during the holiday.
I’ve been Jewbarrassed too and it’s not a good feeling. I know a lot about Judaism, but even with all of my knowledge there are still things that I’m learning. Let’s put a stop to Jewbarrassment at Beth Torah. Let’s make it part of our culture to respond kindly when someone says, “I don’t know what that means. Please explain it to me.” Let’s make everyone feel welcome and help each other continue learning. Our tradition is incredibly deep and vast so let’s make sure no one is drowning in it.
In the spirit of creating a culture where it’s ok to say, “I’m so Jewbarrassed! I don’t know what y’all are doing!“ Beri and I are planning a community seder to relieve people’s Jewbarrassment during Passover. If you’ve ever sat through a seder feeling confused or bored, then this evening is meant for you! We’re going to focus on the parts of the haggadah that many of us leave out of our seders because we don’t understand why those stories are included. They have nothing to do with the Exodus or freedom, and yet somehow we’re supposed to figure out why those texts are in the book. We’re going to take some time to learn why we include the Aramean who lost his way, the marathon learning of Bnai B’rak, Rabbi Elazar and his magical beard, Ben Zoma’s ability to turn night into day, Hallel, why we dump a cup of wine on our enemies, and how to count the Omer. The community seder will take place on Saturday, March 31 at 5:30PM. Please join us and bring your questions.
A wise teacher once told me that I should ask questions in class, even if I felt dumb, because the odds were good that someone else in the room had the same questions but was too embarrassed to ask. This helped me feel brave enough to ask my questions because it wasn’t only for my sake that I asked. If we ask questions we may be surprised to discover how many others would also like to learn the answer. If there’s something that Jewbarrasses you, something you want to learn about, would you please tell me, or each other? Chances are you’re not the only person who has questions. We can learn together.