Somebody needed to say Kaddish and I have a male phenotype. Seemed like a good match, particularly with a personal invitation asking me if I could attend, so I went to minyan for the transition of Yom Tov Pesach into chol hamoed. Pesach can often leave me tired, between the preparation, lateness of Sedarim, and patient obligations during the daylight hours which can be considerable, though on yontiff I try to limit this activity to immediate patient care and maybe some scholarship that I might not otherwise accomplish, leaving the more marginal tasks of billing and charting for another time. I had not eaten since the second Seder, other than some coffee with breakfast and a bissel more in a travel mug that I use for Pesach. Mincha would take place at 7:30 which would leave a twenty minute break before Maariv and Havdalah. Duriing that interlude, I wandered the hall which contained a copy of The Jewish Voice, the newsprint periodical of our Federation and its constituent agencies, which I read, or at least passed over the large print headlines, for the first time in several years.
Now, I've been on the Do Not Call list for nearly two decades, according to their own statistics leaving me among the 18% of those solicited who do not pledge a donation. My tzedakah checks are many times greater than they were when I first walked away, but they are given directly to all sorts of agencies, about twelve a year with a note thanking the participants of each agency for their part of the Jewish mission of Tikkun Olam. I am engaged in that, but very much put off by the Beautiful People who always seemed more interested in acquiring a share of my possessions than they were of generating a sense of purpose from my outlook on Judaism and the world. It had a leadership of fundamentally decent people who failed part 2 of the University Honor Code. Part 1: engage in proper conduct, pretty easy. Part 2: Do not tolerate improper conduct, a little harder when you have to confront similarly protege Beautiful People engaging in misconduct and taking it upon themselves to sacrifice outliers in the name of Kehillah. Not real hard to tell the phone solicitor to deactivate my phone number from her list, but in a polite way. From the attrition that accrued, there were probably quite a lot of Me offshoots with similar adverse experience.
And for a while I was hostile, writing in my journal pages of actual experience. But they never disconnected me from the mailing list to receive their newspaper every two weeks until a few years back when they decided to move to an online format. The Voice would arrive before shabbos about twice a month. I would read it selectively, mostly Obits and Nachas Nook where the other life cycle events would be announced. Most of the time I new somebody named there. But there was still a clear contempt for them who done me wrong or underperformed though their own herd mentality, though never publicly expressed. Some things I would not read, generated mostly by my personal contempt for its author. But each edition had the pages turned, shared with my wife, discussed minimally if at all, then placed in a bag for recycling.
For good reason, print gives way to words on screens, searchable formats which enable further exploration. While I'm hardly a Luddite, having given up my slide rule and illegibly written paper medical charts with little protest, I'm still a sucker for the printed page. My New England Journal comes every week in print and screen, but I read the print. I wouldn't skip the Orthodox Union's Jewish Action and read the USCJ's CJ Voices, both in their print edition. Most of the recipes I use to make special dinners still come from cookbooks. But I'm engaged in medicine, cooking and Jewish ideas so I keep myself in the loop, which still means lying on the couch reading. I'm not engaged in Federation, functioning quite well as an expatriate who has moved on to other variations of Kehillah and Mitzvot more in step with what I aspire to.
So here on a visible shelf in AKSE's hall, I encounter The Jewish Voice, not seen at all for a few years, which I open and glance at the large print. No hostility or irritation this time. Mostly indifference. It had no emotional impact, not something that would induce me to resume participation nor anything that would resurrect adverse experience that I had long since escaped. Articles of basically trivial people telling each other how wonderful they all are. Synagogue advertising from congregations who had seen better days, soliciting those hungry for Kehillah to get out their checkbooks in anticipation of wonderful experiences that I did not really have when I was at those synagogues. And Obits. No emotional reaction one way or the other but a sense that what I was reading had a spin that misrepresented the reality that moved me along. Indifference to what I was reading, which may bode less well than hostility.