Saturday, September 03, 2005

shabbos at the dorm

not so hot.

no, i'm serious. it was surprisingly underwhelming.

not all of it is anyone's fault. i would have to say the highlight is entirely due to my own weakness. during friday night dinner, for some reason, i ended up at the back table, and for some other reason, we got served about an hour after we sat down. for an hour or so i had no soup, no kneidl, nothing but some lame challah roll, and i was starving, because it was already nine thirty. i thought i was doing pretty well, talking-wise, talking to the girls across from me, all juniors. i had gotten lost on the way to shul and had a fairly good time with that and my floormate, we'll call her lonny. lonny was feeling very homesick for her mother (she's an only child), i was trying to make her feel better, with negligible success. and then one of the juniors goes to me, 'so this must be your first shabbos away from home, huh?' and i, ms. oh-everything-will-be-fine-lonny, completely lost it. in the blink of an eye. one minute i was fine and the next minute i was weeping away. in front of everyone. it was humiliating. and i wanted to assure the now concerned people that i was fine, so i tried to make it look like i was laughing, which just made them even more concerned, probably now for my sanity. so that was pretty awful. i kept thinking of my last letter from my father too and it just wasn't cool. i pulled myself together a few times and commenced crying again a few times, and by the time they served the soup i decided to just go home and read.

but lonny got up and said, 'i'll come with you, perel.'

i said, 'you don't have to do that. i don't want you to do that. you just got your soup served.'

she said, 'that's ok. i'm not so hungry.'

i just nodded because L-rd knows i didn't want to start crying again, especially now that the dean was making her way over to me, so we left.

when we got on the street, lonny grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a big, big hug. which is not easy as she is an extremely tiny person.

and then we both stood there crying for a little bit.

and she said, 'perel, perel, we're gonna be fine. we'll get over it. everybody has to grow up sometime.'

after that there wasn't much to say. she was exhausted and her feet were killing her ('i only have to walk three blocks at home!') so she went to sleep. i went back to my room, planning to read some of my extremely good (really! checking out a book in ny is like trying to smuggle drugs over the border, but STILL, their selection is incredible!) books, but lucky for me, my roommates had turned all the lights in the room off. it was pitch black in there. my bathroom also has no windows, so with the light off, that meant i would not be using my bathroom. this is the point at which i thanked G-d for giving me the idea to leave the lights on in the study room across the hall from me, having suspected something like this was bound to happen.

in the end i went downstairs and played some games with the dorm counselors. one of whom is esther malka, who is my cousin's cousin. now to you that may sound like an uncle's grandfather (it did to me, when my aunt first suggested it), except that she reminds me so much of my cousin. i mean, it was weird. technically, she's not related to me at all, but i felt like i'd known her all my life because personality-wise and looks-wise, she is a lot like tzippy (tuesday's daughter). actually she reminded me a lot of tuesday, too, which is even weirder, as she's not blood-related.

ok i probably lost most of you there. suffice it to say, esther malka is probably mildly amused at all the things i presumed to know about her. moving on.

shabbos morning i did not get lost. if that counts as a bonus.

ok, i don't want to diss people. i really don't want to. but my roommates, without shifra here, are harder and harder for me to handle. they really like each other, and they don't like me. they have now started this interesting practice of pretending i do not exist. they talk through me, around me, and over my bed. they put their clothes on my bed. they come back at three in the morning and wake me up. they don't ask me before they invite their friends up and they don't even let me know they're coming. and they spent all shabbos afternoon complaining to each other that there was nothing to do and comparing clothing.

when they are not there, i am fine. absolutely fine.

but honestly! 'somebody should take our garbage out.' 'ugh. that's gross. i don't want to take out the garbage.' 'well somebody should!'

i'm not doing it again.

oh! i figured out who they are! they are- exactly!- sandy and tiffany from daria. one of them looks like she could be decent if she wanted to be...maybe i'll promote her to quinn some day. well, anyway. i feel bad, because i know you aren't supposed to think badly of them. but if you seem not to care what i think of you, even though i live with you, if you aren't even prepared to try, be warned. i am not nobody, and no matter how many boys you have on your waiting list, i will not kotow to you.

i want a single.

whoa! off topic!

ok...shabbos. turns out there's no eruv in manhattan. did you know that? i didn't. i got a wonderful head cold shabbos morning, maybe because i am so tired, but anyway, i was walking around with like six tissues up my sleeve. the dean gently took me aside and told me to drop them. i sneezed on her.

then she said, 'boy, you had a rough night last night, didn't you?' and i had half a mind to sneeze on her again and go, 'allergies!'

the shul was not bad for a new york shul. it was small as anything, but the congregation seemed into most of davening. we did mincha in twelve minutes flat though. f express to 164th st, boarding now!

they had kiddush, which basically was an amalgamation of everything my grandma rose has ever served me ('oh, you like the green cake? the cocosh cake? i got more in the freezer!')it looked good, there was no breakfast, and i desperately did not want to starve, so i ate everything. that was bad. let's see if i can remember: one piece of cake, honey dew, one of each kind of cookies, plus all the crumbs i could find. this was basically my dinner too. which was good, because guess what we had for lunch and dinner? more challah rolls! and some cholent! it was like wits all over again. (if kovi ever reads this- hah!)

oh, what are they calling him nowadays? moe? bruce?

well anyway. so i sat next to one of the sophomores at lunch who hugged me last night- she's an actress, an author and a very good story teller all wrapped into one. she is also a very strong believer in Women's Rights in Judiasm, as i later found out. she feels our Role should change, and that we have been Belittled for the past Five Thousand Years. i do not want to hurt her feelings, although i already have, simply by not agreeing with her. ok, admittedly, i was too surprised to remember to be pc at first. and i should have been. she seems just quirky and humorous enough to be someone i could be good friends with.

i am a little unsure, though. she reminds me of a friend i had here, in high school.

well anyway.

after climbing and unclimbing and reclimbing eighteen flights, i spent the rest of shabbos reading and listening to my roommates talk about cute boys in israel and how not to get caught for being underage.

and that i think was the disappointing thing. this was orientation shabbos, the Shabbos Not To Miss. where were the shiurim? where was the shabbos spirit? one of the rabbis gave a dvar Torah after lunch and he would joke every five minutes that we only had to suffer through his speech for one more thing before we got to leave. i know i'm not usually a fan of long speeches, but his speech was not that long. we didn't sing anything, we didn't...look at what a hypocrite i've become. i was talking to my father and he pointed out that i have been on the other side of these conversations more than once. but honestly, where is the excitement here? where is the feeling that shabbos is a special thing?

i really like the dean, and i really like the rabbi who talked...he was funny as anything, and he could have taught at my school. but at times it seems like some people are only using the jewish aspects of yu as a cover excuse to party in manhattan. this wasn't even a co-ed shabbaton. ugh. i can't wait for bubbe to get here...i can't even wait to spend shabbos with my other grandparents, even though i imagine that will be a little awkward with just me and grandma. i see now how important chicken soup and family is on shabbos. it's just not friday night without it.

but you know what?

despite everything...everything...i really think it was worth it for me to spend this shabbos in the dorm, just to learn what i have about my floormate, lonny.

no matter how many unpleasant people i have perhaps yet to meet, i hope that i will never forget nor cease to be amazed by the amount of love and kindness one person was capable of showing some random girl of four hours' aquaintance.


Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

Wow! Lots of experience for 25 hours! Want me to get you some invites for Shabbatot? I've got some relatives in Brooklyn that can make you forget what planet Manhattan is on.

As for the singing thing, guys tend to be much less self-concious about their voices. I mean, most guys I know will sing zemiros. Most girls, unless they are with people whom they are extremely comfortable with, just won't sing.

I used to like to spend Shabbat in the dorm, but that doesn't mean you have to. Look at getting away for Shabbat a chance to get a brief glimpse of someone else's life. Go to Queens, Monsey, NJ, wherever you have a friend who goes home for Shabbat. If it turns out lousy, just remember you could have stayed in the dorm!

9:05 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

My Shabbos wasn't so spectacular either. On the good side, while people warned me that my new neighborhood is "too frum", no one has yet stoned, beheaded, or poured molten metal down my throat for working in a Conservative day school :-) . On the negative side, though, i know barely anyone here, and it was the first time ever as far as i can remember being at not just one but two shabbos meals (both dinner and lunch!) with no females present at all. The shul was nice, though. I'm just going to have to work harder at meeting people. Which is annoying when you're shy as all heck.

11:21 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

I hosted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this Shabbos. I can't believe I waited so long to have him over.

Love the auto-Turing test, the spam was getting out of hand.

11:52 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

"Emergency meeting of the Fashion Club!"

Which email were you talking about, the one where I said "Make sure you don't cry at the Shabbos table and whatever you do definitely don't try to pretend you are laughing"?

While I don't think you have to worry about not having an invite for Shabbos, I suspect future shabboses at the dorm won't be that bad because fewer people will be around, especially those who are not into yiddishkeit (like your roomies).

If it made you appreciate what you have in Milwaukee, then I'd say this whole experience was worthwhile.

As far as a lack of spirituality goes...

They can't all be Twerskis.

5:51 AM  
Blogger fudge said...

no. i dont know if it was an email or something where you said you cracked up at your office, and then i got an image of it in my head, and that made ME start crying because it was so sad.

'oh piddles. wait, is your name piddles?'

well, we'll see. maybe i'll stay for the radio shabbaton in the last week of september.

last night one of em didn't come home at all. she woke me up at nine-thirty this morning and went to sleep. the other one has been trying to convince me that she went to a party and the king of some small african country was there. i am not making this up.

it's ok, though. i think that was the point where i actually started to enjoy them.

as for the twerskis: what confuses me most is, we don't even DO anything the twerskis do. we have tv and radio and et al - by purely technical standards, i am more like anyone here than anyone at home.

steg: i wish you luck. i would say just keep showing up and people will start introducing themselves, but then it hit me that i'm not really sure if that works here.

8:07 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

See, your problem is that you're still defining yourself by what you're not. You have more in common with the Twerskis than you think. Ask your roommates!

8:16 AM  
Blogger TzipsterC91 said...

Keep smiling! Don't think! Since when do I look like Esther Malka? Well, I can see why you's say it, but anyway, I thought she had left Stern. If it gets too bad, think about the poor little kids who still have a year of high school before they can join you (or the poor little kids who are starting high school on Tuesday AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! HELP!!!!!!!!)
I think I'm having an attack of the pre-school jitters. oh well, cant be worse than what you've got.
Be outgoing! Most girls are nice. If they arent . . . "Know your friends well. Know your enemies better" - K.A.Applegate.
Good luck!

9:49 AM  
Blogger JC said...

At the risk of sounding like a mother and a grandmother, stay away from parties where a king of some african country is present. I am glad that you are smart enough to see your roomies as they are, rather than trying to do anything to fit in, which is what a lot of folks would do. Your roomies will lead interesting lives, but when they are my age they will wish that they had been more like you and had the life you lived. Hang in there kiddo. I am sorry you are homesick. It will get maybe in a year or two unless you are sick or something at which time you will still want your mama until you are at least fifty. :)I think you should be an author kiddo.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Since we just came back from Israel, stayed home just long enough to do the laundry and upload our photos, and turned around and took Our Favorite Physics Major back to college, I'm just now catching up on my blog reading. I notice you said, in an earlier post, that "i seem to be one of the more religious girls here...even the girls i am closest to were surprised when i excused myself to finish davening. they said they hadn't davened in years. i'm not sure what to make of that yet...there are some frumies, but not many. i find myself almost desperate for right wingers sometimes." Again, this is going to sound odd coming from a Conservative Jew, but believe it or not, I've been in a similar boat for many years. For what it's worth--and that's not much, granted, from an Orthodox perspective--the Punster and I were the only ones among the Hebrew School parents who took our yahadut/Judaism seriously--if you're interested in seeing what that means for this particular Conservative Jew, you might want to read one of my earliest posts, I, personally, found myself in the rather interesting position of being too traditional for the other Hebrew School parents (since I attend shul almost every Shabbat morning) and not traditional enough (being an egalitarian in a traditional shul) for most of the other regular shul-goers.

I've learned from experience to stick to my guns, and I hope you'll stick to yours. Don't be intimated by people who are either more or less observant than you are. Be true to your own beliefs. Do what *you* think is right, in accordance with what you *have* learned and *will* learn. It's up to *you* to decide what kind of Jew you want to be.

". . .at times it seems like some people are only using the jewish aspects of yu as a cover excuse to party in manhattan." Good for you for not wasting time treating YU as what my generation called a "party school." Nobody has to tell *you* that you're in college to learn. I'm sorry to say that some of your roommates may have to find out the hard way--wait 'til they see their grades.

"where were the shiurim? where was the shabbos spirit?" Once you get your feet on the ground and feel at home in your new home, you might want to consider doing something about that yourself. One thing I learned from my years in a chavurah is that, in situations in which Judaism isn't handed to your on a silver platter, you may just have to create it yourself. If there are no shiurim on Shabbat, perhaps you could find some kindred spirits to make a request for them to the administration. Or perhaps you could set up some chevrutah study. And why not gather some likeminded dorm residents in someone's room and sing z'mirot to your collective heart's content? Sometimes, it's up to you to make things happen. Don't rush it, though. When you're ready, you're ready, and not before.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sigh--you would think that Ms. Long-winded here would have the sense to stop talking, having said more than enough already. But I can't resist posting one more comment. (We both know that "Resistance is futile. :) )

"despite everything...everything...i really think it was worth it for me to spend this shabbos in the dorm, just to learn what i have about my floormate, lonny.

no matter how many unpleasant people i have perhaps yet to meet, i hope that i will never forget nor cease to be amazed by the amount of love and kindness one person was capable of showing some random girl of four hours' aquaintance."

Despite the difficulties you encountered, you've kept a positive attitude. One of my "Elul resolutions" is to try to develop an attitude such as that. Being able to look on the bright side is a precious ability. May you always be blessed with that attitude, and with the ability to cherish the good in people.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Balabusta said...

Just signing in to let you know I was here.

That was the worst of it, and without the worst, you would not get to see the best, so it wasn't for nothing.

And it gets better from here. You don't have to stay for Shabbos, Shabbos can be where and when you want. Be open, be real, be polite and be yourself.

It's really just that simple.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Safranit said...

Mrs. B...

Wow, does everyone get to choose when Shabbos happens? I thought we had to pick Saturday! :)

12:16 PM  
Blogger persephone said...

Fudge, it's been over ten years since I graduated from Stern, so I don't know if anything I'm going to say will still hold true... in case it helps, though, here's what I picked up while I was there.

A spiritual experience at Stern is definitely going to be what you make of it. While there are lots of people there who value the things you do, there are lots of others who don't. And Stern, for better and for worse, has to welcome and serve both of those groups of people. It's an Orthodox college, but it's still a college, not a seminary. They don't necessarily see it as their place to provide a total environment for you.

So where do you find the people and experiences you're looking for: when I was there, the biggest crowd for mincha was in the beit midrash. There was always a handful of people in there learning, but at mincha time it was bursting at the seams. You will probably also find people davening in the stairwells here and there. Find a corner where you can daven with some concentration, and chances are you'll meet someone else heading there for the same reason.

You will also be more likely to meet women who are looking for something spiritual in your Judaic studies classes, especially if you ask around about what's challenging or inspiring. There will be some people trying to fill their core requirements as easily as possible, but there will also be others who will stand out because they clearly love learning. Student groups are another way to meet people who share the same passions you do.

You're on the right track with your roommates vs. Lonny, too. Don't be too worried if you don't click with the random people you were assigned to: I hate the fact that you have to feel uncomfortable in your own room, but these don't have to be the people you really bond with anyway.

Shabbat at the dorm is going to depend entirely on which group is sponsoring it. I had a good experience when a favorite teacher of mine was invited to be the guest speaker (although the food was still lousy), but I was also glad not to be an out-of-towner who had to rely on staying in for Shabbat more often. I'd encourage you to stay in whenever there's something you're interested in being a part of, but the rest of the time, get out of the dorm for Shabbat whenever you can.

I don't know if you'd enjoy Shabbat at our house either, we're not the most spiritual of couples -- but we're frum, and we're openminded, and we *love* a wry sense of humor. If the idea of accepting an invitation from a stranger on the internet isn't too creepy, we'd be glad to offer you a place you can come often, and hopefully be yourself. Email me if you (or your dad) would like to run a background check. :)

1:27 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Persephone, that sounds like wise advice. Thank you.

You can email me through my profile re: the invite.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Ouch. Sounds like a rough start at Stern... but apparently, lots of people have it tough at first. It may take a while, but you'll find many more like Lonny as you spend a little more time there, whether it's on the way to daven in a corner, as suggested, or in your classes or shiurim. Someone else said, wisely, that the smaller shabbosos are usually more spiritual/nicer/get more out of. That's very true, and primarily because people who stay for those are staying because that's what they want to get.
Gotta run, but the Shabbos offer is always open (this week, if you'd like! so far, we've had a few calls to say they 'might be coming') - and, if you're into the aforementioned background checks, ask the Schneidermans, Borsuks, WITS Rebbeim... whomever you'd like. :) As my wife likes to say, we're not ax murderers.
We also know a lot of 'good frum' girls in Stern, if you'd like we can 'casually mention' you to some of them. Most of them are juniors/seniors I think, but most people I know are friends with plenty of people in other years.
Oy - really gotta run - car to airport in 7 hours! And where's my passport!?

11:07 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Tzipster: K.A. Appelgate must have stolen that from Sun Tzu: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Here's one from you:

Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.

6:45 AM  
Blogger fudge said...

abba: in that case, i'll bet you'd enjoy this restaurant i just went to. you can't miss it. you just take thirty-third down to fourth and broadway. oh, and by the way, fourth st doesn't exist, so have fun!

ezzie: thank you muchly. truly and kindly. i've managed to book myself out for the next two weeks, but you will probably hear from me afterwards.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

Oh, my. You definitely can't replace homemade chicken soup and family, even with a great In-Shabbos at the dorm. You are certainly welcome to my humble abode (only seven flights up! Hey, we're a poor Kollel couple, okay?) and I promise the chicken soup will be awesome. As for background checks, perhaps you'd better not talk to any WITS rebbeim. From what I hear, my husband, Dovid, wreaked havoc in that institution during his stint there. His memories of Milwaukee are very fond. I'm just not so sure about the memories of his esteemed hanhala ;). My adorable kids are, by far, the biggest draw in my house and you can check them out at my blog (one teensy plug never hurt anyone...). Oh, and your attitude is amazing.

9:53 AM  
Blogger fudge said...

ayelet: wow. i read your comment on the last post also and i don't believe my face has turned this color since the last time i pulled my Bag Lady stint. you are very kind and sound extremely humurous. welcome to the insanity!

10:08 AM  

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