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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where the Classroom Ends

                                                                                                                   March, 2012

Dear Family and Friends:

Shel Silverstein wrote a book I used to love called, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”  Recently I’ve had a different title in mind.  I might call it, “Where the Classroom Ends.”  I guess if you think about it the classroom never ends.  Ben Zoma in “Pirke Avot, The Sayings of our Ancestors,” a book in the Mishnah, teaches us:  “Who is wise? He who learns from all men” (read, people).  Ain’t that the truth!

Last weekend, the classroom ended up late Saturday night in a bar here in Bloomington, Indiana.  I was learning sociology and those with me were learning a bit about Jewish education.  It’s quite unusual for me to be in a bar any night except to catch a local jazz band, and that’s the reason The Vid found the five of us in one of its booths at ten PM last Saturday.  Only, the band I hoped we were going to hear was not scheduled to play.  My mistake.  Turned out OK because it gave us an opportunity to sit and talk and laugh.  Camp stories abounded.  Talk of where one might be headed after a job ends and where another is headed after graduation, was on our menu.  Of course we played a little Jewish geography and caught up on old camp friends and what they were up to.  We laughed a lot.

We were in a bar so, of course, we had a couple drinks.  Nothing radical, but that was the vibe at The Vid .  I was amazed to learn what seems to be typical for college students .  I guess it’s been a long time since I lived on campus (about 43 years, actually).  We got to the bar at 10PM and the place was deserted.  By midnight it was just starting to fill up.  My comrades told me that this is the way of the world on campus on a Saturday night.  I learned that things didn’t really get started until around 1AM, and some joints stayed open until 4.  The more I thought about it the more I realized that it was as if someone turned the clock off here between dinner and midnight and then started it up again.  At ten when we arrived all was quiet.  By midnight when we were headed home (actually, just some of us headed home) the action was just beginning.  No wonder we hear the kids next door to us banging around sometimes at four or five in the morning.  They’re just coming home after a hard night of being IU students.  That was my sociology lesson for the day.

I added my bit to the conversation when someone asked me about our trip to Europe and Israel last summer.  You can read all about it in the blog if you look it up.  I started describing the trip and ended up in a soliloquy about the Holocaust, Auschwitz, and Israel.  I told them what it was like to lead a T’fillah (worship service) in the middle of what was a death camp; where more than a million of our relatives had found the end of their sidewalk, in a most terrible way.  I’m sure I surprised everyone by getting a bit emotional.  But thinking back on it, it was a cool classroom, an unusual student body, and, as it turns out, just the right moment to talk about things that really matter and are close to the heart.
That’s where the classroom ended this last weekend.  Ben Zoma was right, we were all a bit wiser by midnight…and we had a lot of laughs…and a few tears to boot.


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