I hear tell that when you're a blogger, you never need to have coffee alone again. Sounds true to me! I just had the profound pleasure of meeting Andrew Schamess, of Semitism.net, for coffee at Bellissimo Dolce.
I've been reading Semitism.net for ages. From the first time I saw their slogan ("Pro-Jewish. Pro-Arab. Pro-Peace.") I've been a big fan -- I love the way that motto neatly elides the supposed disjunction between the two "sides." It was a real treat to meet the guy behind the blog! (Actually there are two guys behind the blog -- Andrew and Brad -- but Andrew was the one who started it.)
Andrew and I talked about a million things: how each of us came to the Berkshires, and why we stayed; how and why each of us began blogging; our personal journeys into Jewish observance and congregational affiliation. (Seems like each of us had an orbit that pulled our interests elsewhere for a while first, and we're both lefty enough to be on the fringes of the Jewish mainstream.) We talked about Jewish Renewal, Buddhism, and the Aleph program I'm enrolled in. We commiserated about being active in small shuls that can't always draw a minyan. We talked about the mainstream Jewish attitude toward intermarriage, and how counterproductive we both think it is. We talked about writing, child-rearing, and smalltown life.
We also had a great conversation about Israel. Both of us have
deep frustrations with the way Israel treats the Palestinians,
and with the mainstream American Jewish trend of
unquestioning support for Israel. I observed
that when people understand their
Jewishness primarily in terms of Zionism, they're missing out on the
rest of the amazing richness that Judaism has to offer -- and
Andrew added that when they realize what's troubling about the occupation, they may
lose their whole connection to Jewish identity. All the more reason to broaden and deepen Diaspora Judaism.
It's always a treat to be able to ratchet an online friendship into a real-life one, and I look forward to more coffees and connections (and maybe even working together on a project relating to progressive religious bloggers, about which more anon). Three cheers for Berkshire bloggers!
(Now if only I could schedule that long-awaited coffee with the elusive Abu Aardvark...)