So for this month I have been working at the Saratoga Chanukah Wonderland. Instead of merely placing large menorahs in front of playgrounds Chabad of Saratoga got smart and actually opened up a storefront as way to passively invite people to meals and other events, and in addition try and sell some Judaica in the largely underserved sector. So for the last three weeks while I try to figure out my life and what I actually want to do with it, I have sat on a pretty comfy plastic chair that has a good rounded back seat and surfed the net, watched movies and listened to some of the most hilarious suggestions and comments that people make. Considering Saratoga Springs is one of those rich yuppie towns where people move from the city to try and escape the crime, the ghetto and well everything else that comes with cities, there happen to be lots of Jews here. Affiliated Jews you ask, well not too many I must say. But there are plenty that know what’s going on, whether they choose to participate is their choice. But I will just write some of the things I overheard people say or that I have talked to.
A man last week came in asking for Chanukah Christmas ornaments, you know dreidels or menorahs that can be hung on a tree or used for stocking stuffers. Then I do get a lot of requests for dreidels that can fit in stockings, because “you know were Jewish, but we celebrate Christmas, because everyone else does”. I was wondering why all the small toy products are such a hit.
The first night we were open we had free latkes, so like all dis-organized Jews the Rabbi never took the sign down. I love it when people come in look around to pretend like they didn’t just come in here to be cheap and get free food and then they ask. So about those free latkes since they must have noticed we have no food. I say sorry that was just for the Victorian Walk, their faces usually turn crimson red when they realize that I am looking at them like a bunch of Cheap Jews. I want to hold them and console them and tell them that they are not alone, and that I myself am also a cheap Jew. But they usually leave too fast for to hold them tight and make the pain go away.
Skidmore College is a school located in town here and basically from I have been told it is of the sort that rich kids who are dumb usually go to. From the kids I have met, only a few of them seemed stupid, or just of the realm that they could snort as much Oxy Cotton that they wanted to because they would never have to actually find a job. Kind of reminds me of Hobart William Smith in Geneva Which is nicknamed Hobart William Sniff. So anyway a bunch of these students come in every day to take part in the free food and arts and crafts that we offer. The free food is usually the same as above but some of them actually find the time to make a dreidel or menorah. But let me tell you, the second you ask them if they interested in signing onto out email list or coming for a Friday night dinner. Man its like you stuck a hot coal on their tongues. They are gone quite fast. Its funny because the Rabbi here told me that he has tried for 5 years and not one Skidmore student has ever said more then hello, and one time he got to email some girl, and that’s as far as he got. I guess he aint no playa eh.
I overheard a man say to wife who was browsing while he looked very desperate to be drinking beer with his buddies at poker night. “But honey we celebrated Chanukah last Year”. “You know why dear, its because were Jewish” and then the browsing continued.
Last week I had a guy and his daughter in here, she made a bunch of stuff in the arts and crafts section, they bought a DVD, some books and bunch of other stuff for beginning Jews and when I asked them to sign up for the mailing list they did. But mid writing the guy asked very quietly if they could still come if they weren’t Jewish. It was funny because his daughter who was like 7 years old knew everything. So he said that in school they learnt about it and she became very interested in anything Jewish. If only the assimilated ones were as interested I thought.
Two weeks ago 4 people come in the store acting like they own the place. I could tell right away before they spoke that they were frum Jews from Brooklyn or something. Then their leader I shall say, said in his thick mocking me New York accent “hey where can I find a minyan around here?”, imagine this a Jewish store in Saratoga, jeez chabad is everywhere. Then they started the whole nu vere are you from vats your fader do, how do you expect to find a shidduch in Albany, you will eventually have to move to NY what’s a Jew doing up here? But one guy went all out and spent like 200 bucks proclaiming that this is way cheaper than NY and that he never imagined doing his Chanukah shopping in Saratoga, they happened to be around for some conference for mental health issues.
Yesterday I met this frum hippy lady that has a reggae show on the radio, and she was quite an interesting lady to talk to. I also got to meet a bunch of Jews from interesting places that I had been to and always wanted to know about what it was like being Jewish there. I had a long conversation with a woman from Gloversville about the Jewish community there and in Johnstown which is right next door. I met quite a few Jews from Schuylerville, Greenwich, Cambridge, Glens Falls, Poughkeepsie, Malone, and the general surrounding areas. It has been a good experience to know I may have made a difference in someone’s Jewish life for the better.