Here’s how you play: “Oh, you’re Jewish and you come from [insert name of anywhere] ? Do you know my uncle/cousin/brother/friend?” More often than not, whether you live in a huge city or tiny village, taking only a couple of turns will yield results in the game of Jewish Geography. All you need to find is a couple of connectors and the Jews-you-know-in-common will inevitably emerge.
The question is – why do we play? On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter if your third cousin took gymnastics with the niece of the person you’re talking to on the train from London. On the other hand, there is something deeply comforting in how the game helps us feel connected to other Jews and to The Jewish People even when they are people we don’t know and won’t ever meet. It’s more than a fun way to pass the time on a train or in line at the food store. It helps us feel like we have a place in this world; like we are connected to an entity that extends to every corner of the world, that predates us by 3000 years or so and that we hope will live on long after we’re gone. It helps us know that we’re not alone and that the way we live our lives matters.
In our camp Jewish mission statement we say:
We are connected to all Jews across time and space with a familial bond based on shared heritage, history, language, rituals, and culture. Based on this connection, we have a responsibility to care for one another. Here at Airy and Louise we live this value by bringing together staff from around the globe, exposing our campers to different practices and beliefs, and intentionally building a diverse community based on mutual respect and understanding.
And it works. The proof is in that illusive but oh-so-valuable double bonus “win” during a game of Jewish Geography – the capture of the queen, the purchase of Boardwalk AND Park Place, the royal straight flush:
“You went to Camp Louise/Camp Airy?”
“OMG – you were in my bunk, weren’t you? Kickball champion of unit E!! How have you been?”