Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Come to me, my Evil Minion!

First, an explanation about the cryptic, vaguely cruel, in-joke in the title:

Scene: Shiksa Girlfriend and me, and my dear anonymous roommate, at college about a year ago, discussing shul options.

Me: Yeah, the Reconstructionist Shul is ok, but I really like the once-a-month Carlebach Minyan.

Her: I know, I even wrote it down on the calendar so we wouldn't forget.

Roommate, inspecting the calendar: Um... you know you spelled "minyan" wrong, right?

Her: What?

Roommate: It has a y.

Me: And an a.

Her: This is bullshit! There's no y in "minion!" This is even dumber than the time you told me "baalchoova" has a t!

So we went to the "Evil Minion" the other week. This a pretty lively, young-ish Carlebach/Shir Hadash style minyan in town that's pretty cool. I was initially semi-intimidated by some of their semi-halachic language regarding seating arangements: they basically have a pseudo-to-tri-chitza, depending on the crowd and mood of the organizers.

This was our second time there. The first time was really, really busy, and we wound up getting in late, about the time people were doing lecha dodi. It was standing room only. A quick glance of the room gave me the basic specs- mostly mixed sexes in the middle, single-sexes to the periphery, and a few hard-core folks against the sides of the room. (One guy in a Breslov kippa was out in front bonking his head into the wall, which I thought was a little weird, but hey, he's entitled.)

So, SG sees a few spots free on the closest wall and tugs me towards them. Only one problem- I have already identified this space as the women's area. Everybody's singing and we don't have time to confer, so I wave her away and deliberately stand closer to the clump-o-everybody. She gives me a look and leans against the wall.
Brief mini-halachic explanation interlude:
I don't care about halacha. But I don't like making an issue for other people. In other words, I like to know and be deliberate about being an asshole (my roommate was very fond of yelling "rubber tires never break!" for the first line of the grace after meals), as opposed to inadvertently freaking people out, like the time SG scandalized some poor Orthodox girl into next week. For this crowd, it turned out I was probably being oversensitive- the Evil Minion is a far cry from Boro Park (which is good in just about every way except that it means much less facial hair).
Finally, a few songs/psalms later, SG joins me in the mixed-gender-stew-seating. "Sorry I couldn't explain it," I whisper. "You were standing in the women's section." She shrugs. "I figured it was something like that, and not that I smelled." She squeezes my hand. As we continue with Kabbalat Shabbat, another latecomer pops in. He immediately makes a beeline for the women's wall and spends the rest of the service there, seemingly oblivious to some of the dirty looks he receives.

Other highlights included the prayer leader, a Mizrahi-looking-and-sounding guy, doing the fastest stacatto rendition of Maariv I've ever heard. It was kind of cool, if a little weird. It sort of reminded me of this guy. "Be dibarta-bam, biddy-bum-bum-bam."

This last time was pretty good as well. Evil Minion has its own transliterated prayerbook (big plus), and even better, not-every-word-has-two-or-three-hyp-hens. While the halacha thing isn't an issue for me, I like that they're billing themselves as big tent nondenominational (at some point I should blog about denominationalism, and the presumption that nondenominationalism can actually exist in practice, over at Friar Yid). And we even ran into some people we know- Oyster and Chutzpaleh from Oy Bay (they recognized my super cool yarmulke) and an irritating former professor for SG. SG's professor, Mr. Ihateyou, is on Sabbatical and apparently knows some of the Evil Minion's founders. SG then made a Jewish Geography joke which Prof Ihateyou didn't understand. Irritated to hell, she silently cursed him with the dreaded Pulsa de No Tenure and went off to find me.

There were only a few downsides with Evil Minion:

A- No drash. Apparently I have to get used to this because most of the Kab Shabs we've been to in town don't do Friday Night Drashes, which is too bad because I miss hearing them. (I know, I know, stop whining, wake up early and come on Saturday. You imaginary readers are so critical.)

B- The room is small and gets very, very hot, even when it isn't a mega-Shabbat. Also, by the time everything is done and you've gotten to kiddush and motzi, it's so loud and crowded it's damn hard to kibbitz decently. I'm not a big mingler to begin with, but with crowds, I really lose all interest and tend to run for the door as soon as I can. I know, I should work on it, and possibly get some body armor, mental or otherwise.

C- Again relating to mingling and meeting fellow shulies: The age group is just a bit ahead of mine, about 5 to 10 years, which shouldn't be that much of a deal, but at the moment is a little weird, if only because a lot of these folks seem to be in a different mental space regarding their lives right now. They seem to be more established regarding jobs and homes and I couldn't help noticing that a few of them seem to be in the early stages of parenting. (Though I have faith that they won't slip down the dark path of Bnei Hippy.) I'm also a little suspicious as to how many people at Evil Minion are there for the "kosher meat market," a-la the roving gangs of Jewish singles that seem to pop up at the monthly, "Please, for God's sake, marry Jewish!" Shabbat over at Temple Touched By God. For some reason the age gap doesn't seem to matter as much at Beth Elderly. I anticipiate that I will probably get over this if I go often enough.

So yes, we will be going back to the Evil Minion. Between Evil Minion, Beth Elderly, Temple GLBT and the one good Carlebachian Shabbat a month at Temple Ol' Faithful, we just might get ourselves into a semi-regular shul schedule.

One last fun name-nugget. I was explaining the concept of Evil Minion to the Yidden at home, and they were less than enthusiastic.

Me: "It's based on a liberal, Modern Orthodox model, and they sort of have separate seating but not really.

Mother Superior Yid: Why does it have to be ORTHODOX? Why would you want to go somewhere ORTHODOX? That's so unfair to SG.

Abbot Yid: Yeah, and why a minyan? Why can't you ever do anything normal? Even if you're going to be Jewy, do you have to go a minyan? It's just so... ugh!

Me, very confused: whaa?

Later Mama Yid explained that "minyan" has a very specific (and not terribly complimentary, apparently) connotation for them (presumably involving emotionally scarring flashbacks to assorted angry old men). Good to know, I guess.

(Incidentally, this isn't the first time my folks' lack of knowledge about Jewish terminology has prevented them from having an opinion about it.)


Oyster said...

Thanks for the shout-out, FY!

Amusing & interesting, as always.

lol, "Pulsa de-No-Tenure-a"!

Rotzi Hashtetl said...

Hey Friar Yid,

I also have a blog about finding a shul. I've only just begun it, but plan on writing shul reviews at least once a month.


What do you say about creating a webring for blogs about finding a kehillah? I'm thinking "Shul Searchers" or "Crazy-Eyed Kehillas."

E-mail me and we can brain storm. shulcrawlla@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Read your post about evil Minion. (I was doing a little web based research for a fictinal evil army of world domination I plan on writing a few sketches about.) Anyway, I live in good old Arizonie. Being raised a laxidasical jew finding my jewish identy post high school, I can understand this. (From being called too observant to hearing a lebatovitch rebbe telling me "At least your going SOMEWHERE". But I really enjoyed your post.

Jack L (AKA The Crazy Zonie)

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