“THE” Community

Though I have been to New York City countless times, before this past weekend, I had never spent much time in New Jersey. Now, this essay is not an argument for New Jersey (it is honestly a rather ~boring/ugly/[insert negative adjective and imagine I am saying it in some sort of New Yorker accent]~ place in many ways). But it is an overview of my transformative? experience spending a few days in “THE” Community.

I ask friends who live in NYC and New Jersey if they have ever heard of THE community. Even the ones who grew up there give me a response that rings something like: “never heard of it.” That reaction surprised me until it did not.

THE community I am referring to is housed in Deal, New Jersey. It is a borough of sorts—about a 1 hour train ride from “THE CITY” (Manhattan or even Brooklyn)—that is located along the Jersey Shore. The geography is cool? in the capacity that it lines the beach, there are rolling hills, and it is relatively close to the greatest? city on earth (NYC bb!!!).

But this essay is not about the geography. Or the land. Or the location. It is about the people. Sorry, THE people, who live in THE community.

As a note, when I capitalize THE, please do not think I am _actually_ insane/inept/weird at writing. Those things may be true (though hopefully not), but the emphasis is in appreciating the PROPERNESS, or at least the proper attributes of THE community. Because THE community—and yes, you should emphasize it in your pronunciation—is a place and feeling I had never experienced before.

THE community is home to ~ 100,000 or so religious, Sephardic, Syrian jewish people. Home is probably not the right term—many of THE community live in Brooklyn during the bulk of the year and come to Deal for the summer. Or should I say, “to Summer.”

And yes, I will emphasize that the place has many attractive qualities. You likely are more familiar with the Hamptons than you are with New Jersey. The Hamptons are really nice. I am lucky to have gone up there a few times and stay with friends (who have nice places). Deal is just as if not nicer than any place I have stayed in the Hamptons. That surprised me. But again, nothing surprised me more than seeing—no, FEELING the experience of being in THE community.

I came to Deal because my friend from growing up was getting married. I came up with a bunch of friends—old, close friends—and it was an amazing experience.

There was a lot to celebrate: the marriage, the seeing of old friends etc. but what I kept thinking about while I was there was WOW, this feeling is magical.

Most all of the people who live in Deal follow a similar style of Judaism. This is not an essay discussing the pros and cons and accuracy of the Jewish religion. As a disclaimer, like you need a disclaimer, I am Jewish. But again, this is not about convincing anyone to be Jewish or anything of the sort. It is also not a spiritual argument.

The MAGIC of having tens of thousands of people following a similar style of Judaism is the ORDER AND COMMUNITY that transpires.

I had never seen happier people than watching THE community come together for my friend’s wedding. 50 people spoke at his wedding! I had never seen people smiling more. More connected. More TOGETHER.

THE community does simple things, but they do them together and reliably and genuinely:

People eat shabbat with their families on Friday nights. They do not use technology on Saturdays and spend their time with friends and family. They do some of the same practices daily. They go to temple Saturday mornings. They marry young and have lots of kids. They stay in the same community for most all of their lives. They work with family and friends often. They eat kosher. They ride bikes on Saturday to temple. The list goes on…

These are all extremely simple things. Extremely simple. Anyone could do them. I am not looking to make an argument that these are the _right_ things to do or that it is especially important to do these particular things.

But you have to appreciate the beauty of ORDER and community coming together.

People in THE community seemed so present. Sure, there is tons of fomo and drama when you bring that many people together. But what I see was a sense of acceptance. Of people realizing that hey, these are best practices for living that I am going to accept without question and make them a core part of my life. Or perhaps they did question it at one point, or many points, but now they are at a stage where they accept these are foundational building blocks to a happy and fulfilling and impactful life.

(Now you can point out that the above may be dangerous and negative in many ways. I would agree with you.)

Made me think…that’s all.


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