World Wide Chabad – My Strange Feeling of Home

Zoe Jick
July 16, 2012
Share:email print

I recently visited Beijing, a city completely foreign to me in language, history and culture. I wasn’t afraid of the unknown because I had books and I had curiosity. I headed to the airport with my backpack and my passport in my typical travel outfit: a cut off green Maccabi Haifa tee and a Birthright sweatshirt.

I only realized my own hypocrisy after the trip, when I saw a photo of myself at the airport in this outfit. As I set off for my trip- which was supposed to be a moment of anonymity and personal space amidst my daily life of accountability- here I was, dressed fully in garb that beckons recognition. I purposefully keep this outfit as my airplane gear because I want to meet traveling Israelis. I want to be cat-called in the airport food court for being a Haifa fan. In a land of unknown words and millions of strangers, I yearned for Hebrew. In my time of solitude, I needed Israelis to feel at home.

Throughout my travels, I now see, this search for Israelis has been a pattern. And there has only been one space to find them: Chabad.

Though I would never step foot in a Chabad House in the States, I have celebrated Pesach at Chabad Beijing, studied all night for Shavuot at Chabad Laos, ate a wonderful hummus meal at Chabad Bangkok, davened Shabbat Shacharit at Chabad Mumbai, and toured the grandiose building of Chabad Moscow. Chabad Houses in foreign lands (often with limited local Jewish populations) are a strange phenomenon: Ashkenaz bearded rabbis and local Jews who look nothing alike, secular Israeli travelers and devout religious families who believe in such different Judaisms. And me: the little girl in back, with fluid religious faith and a confused national identity, just looking for a little bit of home in a place that has nothing to do religiously or culturally with my actual home.

These strange moments of comfort that I’ve found at Chabad houses across the globe actually speak to the paradoxical essence of my Jewish identity. In its bizarre confluences of homelessness and rootedness, of Zionism and Judaism, of Israel and Diaspora, of belief and secularism, I have inexplicably found Chabad to be the one space where I feel most comfortable being Jewish. My Judaism reveals itself at Chabads around the world- I would even say that Chabad houses pull my Judaism out of hiding. Because Chabad houses in foreign countries are the one random space where non-believers (secular Israelis) are welcomed in to spiritual spaces (Chabad houses) and find a familiar comfort (hummus, Jews) in a place totally foreign to their memories (synagogues, American rabbis, Orthodox), I suddenly find myself feeling comfortable in my own confusion. I find myself at home in the foreign.

In our global Jewish community today, Chabad houses succeed to unite all of us searching for a piece of ourselves across the world from home, if only for a moment.

Share:email print
Related Topics:

Zoe Jick is a graduate of Wesleyan University, where she studied religion. Currently, she works as the New York Regional Director for the World Zionist Organization and she holds a recruitment position for Masa Israel Journey. Zoe also writes a travel food blog, which can be found at www.everywhereeating.wordpress.com

1 Comment

  1. Yes the Anti rational Nature of Hassidim and the Russian blood in chabad, is the ability to connect all jews even thought Halacha is clearly strict about distancing themselves , i Believe the Ball Shem Tov was a panthiest and that gives chabad the Nature

    http://youtu.be/j11JJlW7Ygk

    Posted by
    Yehuda Chatsky
Sh’ma does its best to present a multitude of perspectives on the topics that it presents, and promotes the active participation of its readers on its website and social media pages. In keeping with this, Sh’ma is committed to creating a safe and open space for its readers to voice their opinions in a respectful manner. Disagreement on subject matter is encouraged, but Sh’ma does not tolerate personal attacks or inappropriate language. Sh’ma reserves the right to remove any and all postings that do not fit the criteria outlined herein.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*