Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jeans at the table

They showed up in jeans, three seventh grade girls coming to their first Dati shabbat meal. Each one carried a bag, phone in their purse, and were dropped off by one of their dads, who shouted Shabbat Shalom to us as he drove home. We made the kiddush, and asked them if they wanted to wash Netilat Yadayim.

Two chose to partake in the washing ritual, all three hungrily dug into the fresh-made Challah.

And so we ate. They were surprisingly uncurious about what we were doing. No questions about Shalom Aleichem, Eishet Chayil, or our short conversation about the parsha.

Across the table sat two seminary girls. Religious from birth, I wondered what each group thought about the other. Were our Chiloni students curious about the religious rituals we went through? What did our seminary girls think about the three kids who had no problem reading Birkat HaMazon when we finished eating, possibly for the first times in their lives.

We live in such an amazing place. It was not the first time we have had people who were not religious at our Shabbat table, and not the first time we had seen people with almost no connection to religion have no trouble when it comes to Birkat HaMazon.

It is certainly a fry cry from our experience in the US, when our irreligious company sat in respectful silence while we bentched, or tried to read the transliteration in the NCSY bentcher.