To mark Tisha B’Av, The Scroll asked a few writers to reflect on a private Jewish temple they’d lost, a place that was meaningful to them and no longer exists.
Even though the day is synonymous with tragedy, there’s a liberal historical, hindsight is 20-20 perspective about Tisha B’Av, that maybe the birth of the Diaspora isn’t such a bad thing. After all, pre and post-Temple life have their own pros and cons, and we’ve been living the latter for so long that Judaism pre-Galut is almost unrecognizable; we’re mourning something that, despite it being one of the building blocks of our faith, is just one part of far more complex identities. Everything about modern Jewish life, from rabbinic Judaism to synagogue worship to the concept of personal prayer all arose in the aftermath of the destruction of both Temples.
I have been living in exile from the Five Towns on Long Island (Cedarhurst, if you must know) for a few years now. After High School, I was at home for the summers, and after college, periodically to visit. I loved seeing my family, but hated the town overall: I considered, well, still consider, the 5T to be the perfect storm of “holier-than-thou” knee-jerk Orthodoxy and crass materialism. My siblings and I knew we would never put down roots there as adults. And then, my parents, ever subversive of cultural trends, moved out of suburbia to Manhattan. And suddenly, without an anchor, I find that I am permanently cut-off from the place that, for better or worse, was where I formed much of my Jewish identity.
My childhood Jewish Day School. My Jewish High School (now moved to another town, anyway). The synagogue where I became Bat Mitzvah, and spent literally hundreds of Shabboses. The half dozen or so kosher pizza places in walking distance from my childhood home. All of these places have become dim and abstract, even though they’re moving on without me. Places where I once knew every square inch now occur as generic settings in dreams, because even picturing them is surreal. As much as many of these places were emotionally complicated for me, there’s still a sense of loss.
So do I still miss them, as well as the dread of inevitable running into someone you know (but don’t like) on Central Avenue? A bit. But it’s also alien to my life now, a Brooklyn progressive Jewish hipster in a community I chose, and love. Now, when I run into someone in my neighborhood, I’m usually happy to see them. I’m officially in Exile, and the transformation is complete. And ultimately, I wouldn’t have it any other way.