Encounter with a Thin but Very Fit Bearded Man

I just finished my first day as a Chaplain Pastoral Education student, which included an all day orientation. After a long day of sitting and being oriented to Holy Redeemer hospital I found myself quite thirsty so on my way home I stopped and walked into a local grocery store, as I was walking I was feeling quite professional, I was wearing my brand new Chaplain badge and a kippah (yalmukah). While in the store a thin but fit bearded man in Jeans and a baseball cap came up to me from behind. I turn and he says with an accent that I now hear as southern I could easily replace his sneakers with cowboy boots, “Are you Jewish” I turn to face him square on and reply with a confident “yes” thinking to myself it should be obvious with the Kippah. Then he says  “Do you go to a synagogue around here?” To which I replied “No I go to a school around here, it’s the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College” He then says “Do you speak Hebrew?” I say to him “modern skills are not that great, I’m more of a text person” Now after all of this I could feel that he got his questions answered and begins his exit and prepares to walk off off as if that’s the end of the conversation and I say to him “Well, what about you…” He looks at me very puzzled as if I am not allowed to ask him any questions, “…Are you looking for a shul to go to around here he says with a very clear “No, I go to Young Israel have you heard of it?” I say “Yes…is it Modern Orthodox” And he says “no, it’s Orthodox.” And that was the end of my encounter with Thin Orthodox man. On the scale of things I’ve had worse conversations with Jews who feel entitled to ask questions but this one was interesting. Maybe because I am now feeling more comfortable in my rabbi skin, or maybe because this man felt very comfortable walking up to me; a stranger, a female and asking me a bunch of questions and he seemed confused when I then turned around and asked him a question but I guess I should be happy you didn’t question my Jewish identity.

4 Comments on “Encounter with a Thin but Very Fit Bearded Man

  1. The more comfortable you are in your skin as a Jew, a rabbi, a pastor, the easier you dismantle barriers to open conversations with people who ask you questions — all kinds of questions–and the more you steer the conversation. You cannot know what impact you made on this stranger. I would love to read his blog post about the encounter!

  2. Hmm. As a longtime Chaplain I might just comment that you will no doubt find that the real strength of chaplaincy is presence and listening, not so much about labels and faith identities. I wish you well in your studies.

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