Armitage picnic fantasy

[At left: a stack of kosher hot dogs, a food often encountered at Jewish picnics, and the main component of the picnic I went to today. The site from which I stole this photo claims they are glatt kosher — an extra-stringent level of ritual purity required by only a miniscule proportion of the estimated one-sixth of U.S. Jews who observe varying levels of kashrut.]

It being term, despite the sadness of the day, life goes on, and today was the kickoff picnic for Jewish faculty at my campus’ Hillel (Hillel is a national organization for Jewish students on U.S. campuses — and as I learned from that link, operates in some other countries, too). It plays an important role in Jewish life because its main purpose is to address the most pressing problem facing Judaism in the contemporary United States: assimilation. Something like 50 percent of Jews “marry out.” Hillel ensures that if your Jewish child wants to meet another Jew in a non-religious setting, he or she at least has a fighting chance. This role is important because in much of the non-urban U.S. apart from the coasts, no local synagogue may be available to organize student activities — and in my experience, local shuls are usually focused on Hebrew school and facilitating observance of yahrzeits. I don’t mean to denigrate the other activities of Hillels on U.S. campuses — religious services, holiday celebrations, cultural programs, charity, community service, interfaith dialogue, and so on. But the main point is the Jewish socializing on offer.

[At right: a falafel sandwich with tahini sauce, which is what I wish they’d serve at these events. It’s pareve, so you can eat ice cream afterwards.]

Today they tried to extend the same principle a bit further and get Jewish faculty socializing with each other. This goal is not altruistic. The high holidays are coming up, and the campus rabbi would like to see as many faculty as possible because it raises the attractiveness of Hillel events to students. Because it helps students feel at home on campus, the provost would also like to see faculty at these events, and sure enough, a representative from the dean of students was there to chat us up.

Faculty tend to respond with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Jews know about the intermarriage statistics and that, because the important ritual and religious events happen in the Jewish home as opposed to in shul, marrying out endangers not only a culture, but also a religion. Judaism has cultivated a long-standing resistance to converts, and though something like 180,000 Americans convert to some strain of Judaism each year, people like me won’t keep the religion alive. We gotta hang onto the people we already have — people with affective connections to the religion that go beyond conviction and extend to culture and family, affective connections built in places like Hillel. On the other, most faculty don’t seek to spend more time on campus or with undergraduates (and this is a campus with a heavier teaching load than my last one). People with kids are already involved in a synagogue and have little more time to give. That leaves singles and older people, both groups that are socially further separated from postadolescents. And, too, given the dual status of Judaism as a religion and a culture / ethnicity, along with the political issues around the state of Israel, stuff that happens at Hillel ends up being of ambivalent appeal to lots of us. If you’re not already incorporated into a regular synagogue at age 40, odds are you’re going to have some quibble about Hillel, too. I go because I am one of few faculty I know who don’t mind socializing with undergraduates, and because I think it’s probably a mitzvah to try to help out.

Someone I did not encounter at the picnic today, either literally or metaphorically: Richard Armitage as Paul Andrews in Between the Sheets, episode 2. My cap.

I was musing over all of this on the drive over and was wishing a bit archly (I’m not really actively looking for anyone at the moment) I could use Hillel the way undergrads do, to find a partner. In fact, everyone at the picnic who was roughly my age was either married or a woman. Shoot. Reflecting the overall status of assimilation, about half the people there were non-Jewish partners of Jews. Given that, although there’s not even a whiff of Jewishness about Richard Armitage, I could have met him there, I suppose, but odds would have been that, as a non-Jew, he’d have been there with someone else.

Food options I was not offered at the picnic today: Paul Andrews (Richard Armitage) offers Alona a plate of grilled chicken at a party in Between the Sheets, episode 2. My cap.

Sober realist that I am, I pretty much knew ahead of time that I was not going to meet Richard Armitage this afternoon — though it was a nice fantasy — , so I was also musing about the food we might be offered. This is another problem I find with Hillel: the food has to be kosher, which means that they’re limited to certain products (no chicharrones, for example, not that I’d miss them) and that certain food combinations typical at picnics in the U.S. will never occur at a Hillel picnic. They’ll never serve hot dogs and ice cream, for example, because that transgresses the prohibition on consuming dairy and meat products together. Also, because they seek to serve all different observance levels of Jewish students, Hillel kitchens usually hold to the standards of orthodox kashrut, which heavily restricts the prepared products they can serve. Kosher meat costs about three to four times per pound what the same cut costs in the supermarket, assuming you can find a kosher supplier. So I figured we’d get hot dogs, because kosher dogs are available in every supermarket, and that the meat decision would contort the rest of the food available, as prepared products completely without dairy are rare in the U.S., and even if a secular factory makes a cookie or a snack without dairy, they use the same machines to make other things that have those ingredients, which knocks their products out of the running for kosher certification. So kosher snacks that you can eat with meat can get a bit far out from the mainstream — this is what we had today instead of chips, and take my word for it, they’re disgusting, as should be apparent from the ingredient list. Don’t get me wrong — kosher food can be just as delicious as tref. Because of the rules on ingredients and mixtures, most food in the kosher kitchen needs to be prepared from scratch — but that’s exactly what’s most unlikely to happen at a U.S. picnic. I suspect this Hillel knocks itself out for Shabbat meals on Friday nights, which is as it should be, since that’s when the most people come. But a plate of fresh fruit would have been nice.

Well, if wasn’t going to get Richard Armitage, or a great meal, out of the picnic, was there anything else I could hope for?

Paul Andrews (Richard Armitage) and Alona Cunningham (Julie Graham) in a post-orgasmic clinch in Between the Sheets, episode 2. My cap.

All in all, it was a fine event. I talked to the rabbi and a few people I didn’t know introduced themselves. I told the rabbi that lacking other options, I’d probably come for the high holiday services. He said they’d be happy to have me. I was glad I went. But what happened for Paul and Alona did not happen for me, either. Oh, well. Too bad!

~ by Servetus on September 12, 2011.

27 Responses to “Armitage picnic fantasy”

  1. I am glad you had a good time even if Paul didn’t show up with chicken and sausages, ready to “talk” with nothing on but a sock. ; )

    I love Hebrew National hot dogs. I don’t feel as if I am putting total crap into my body. I grew up eating the kind that looked like they were full of Red Dye # 2. Since I started my slimming regime (doesn’t that sound much nicer than diet?) however, I hadn’t eaten a hot dog, until Benny found some 98 percent fat free weiners from Oscar Mayer for me.

    A friend of mine who is Jewish is married to a Gentile, and has to travel to Montgomery for temple and for Hebrew school for her son. Not a lot of Jewish people in rural Alabama, well, Alabama period. I wonder if they have social events to bring together some of the scattered Jewish folk from the region, especially kids like Laun who doesn’t get to interact with other kids of his faith at school. I confess I had never really thought about it before.

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  2. Leaving aside the general health level of hot dogs, I think Hebrew National is not a bad choice, in that the kosher authorities do prevent some things that go into the cheapest hotdogs in the US from going into them. Some customary food additives and preservatives are simply not kosher and they don’t go into Hebrew National. However, if I am still up to date on this (maybe I am not) many Jews who observe kashrut seriously in the US won’t eat them because they don’t have the Union of Orthodox rabbis certification. They are certainly tasty, though.

    Jews in the Deep South have it rough, outside of cities. There used to be many more synagogues in smaller cities but they are disappearing. Documenting this disappearance is something that has been the topic of a few books in the last decade or so.

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  3. That’s my favorite hot dog too. Too bad you didn’t meet Paul but maybe that was a good thing. 😉

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  4. When I read that things like chicken beaks and feet and certain organ meats were ground up for hot dogs, it made me start thinking twice about eating one. I like meat, but there are just some things I do not relish the thought of consuming, No snouts, lungs, hearts, livers, gizzards or brains. No pork rinds!

    Right now, I think Naomi may be the only practicing Jew in our county. My sister has several Jewish friends in Birmingham, but it is the largest metropolitan area in the state.

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    • remember reading The Jungle in school? Uch. You can’t think too much about what might be in processed meat. My parents made their own sausage, and the difference is indescribable.

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      • I read the book by the guy who wrote “Super Size Me,” called “Fast Food Nation” and I really did not want to eat at a fast food place for a while after that. I actually haven’t eaten in one in a couple of months, and haven’t missed it.

        We had our own beef and poultry and sometimes pork that came from our farm when I was growing up, and we were eating very lean ground beef before it become “fashionable.” I remember the first time I tried to cook a hamburger patty using storebought meat. The thing kept shrinking and shrinking and the fat!

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  5. Totally OT: Thanks for that last pic because it allows a close study of the alleged bald spot on the back of Mr. Armitage’s head. I have never seen a pic that shows so clearly that it is just a cowlick. Probably less obvious when the hair is longer.

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    • Good point, Jane. The cowlick didn’t show up at all when he had those extensions as S3 Guy and I don’t recall seeing it with the longish natural hair of the first two series of RH, either.

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    • Agree with you Jane! Always thought it was just where his hair parted as sometimes it is more obvious than other depending on how long his hair was. I often wondered too when his hair was dyed such a dark colour that maybe his real hair colour was showing a bit at the roots!

      Another OT – I know I shouldn’t a mention this but when looking up instances of the cowlick I couldn’t help but notice (not for the first time I admit) a couple of pictures from SB1 Episode four – #’s 066 and 071 to be exact – from the SB screencaps from RAnet.com that on JP’s – *cough* – “fly” two of his buttons are open. Oops!!

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    • On the picture here, I think it looks more like a natural swirl and not the beginning of a bald patch. On other pics, however …

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  6. Mmm…Is it wrong to want to lick his moles? *blushes*

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  7. I really need to get a copy of BTS

    Oh, and the picnic sounds fun (pulling my mind back to the actual topic of your post) None of our local universities even have Hillel chapters, so the chances of either of my daughters meeting Jewish boys in a non- religious setting are pretty bleak. So, I am practicing putting on my happy face when my girls wander in with some good Christian boy. Just like my mom kept smiling when her (formerly)Catholic daughter brought home a lovely Jewish boy. Thirty years later, the Jewish boy and the former Catholic girl are still together, even though the Catholic girl has been Jewish for a long time now.

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    • you can get a copy used for about $25; but you have to have a region-free DVD player. This was a really worthwhile investment for me, I have to say — it’s paid off in realms outside of Armitageworld.

      I was raised in a “don’t marry out” religious group, so I may be more willing to see this issue as a problem than some might be. I think what your comment points out among other things is that intermarriage isn’t the end (and underlines the fact that assimilation has been a problem of much longer standing among Jews).

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      • I also found a program you can download for free from DVDible that allows you to play any DVD from any region on my laptop. I watched “Moving On” using it this weekend and just finished “North & South.” I have a stack of movies and TV shows outside of Mr. A’s stuff (although his pile is pretty impressive) I have gotten from amazonuk.

        Of course, I also have a region-free player, but sometimes I like getting up close and personal and my laptop has a big, beautiful HD screen and great sound through my earbuds. 😀

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        • May I ask if anyone of you Canucks* out there has a region free DVD player and if so where were you able to buy it? I know Walmart doesn’t have them, at least not the ones I shop at.

          *That’s another name for Canadians BTW for my non-Canadian friends!

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        • How did you find the download, Ang? Because frankly I think the hubby would not really be willing to invest in a region-free DVD player just because I want to ogle RA naked.

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          • Cindy,

            DVD Region+CSS Free – Watch & Copy Any DVD … – DVDIdle.com
            http://www.dvdidle.com/dvd-region-free.htm – Cached

            This is where I got my download. It has worked for everything I have played so far. In some cases, I had to open my VLC player and choose DVD to start the movie playing, but that’s no biggie. I do recommend installing VLC (it’s free) if you don’t have it.; it will play things my Windows Media Player will not.

            And I get your drift about your husband . . . while my husband bought my region-free player for me as a belated Christmas gift, he didn’t know about Naked Paul at the time. *giggle* Some things a girl needs to keep to herself.

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            • Sorry to bug you, Ang. I have Macbook, do you think the region-free thing will work?

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              • You’re not bugging me. 😉 I looked it up and this particular software is not compatible with MAC. However, there may be some program out there that is. I think I will do a little research on that.

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                • TrueCrypt – Free Open-Source On-The-Fly Disk Encryption Software …
                  http://www.truecrypt.org/faqSimilar
                  You +1’d this publicly. Undo
                  Apr 18, 2011 – TrueCrypt is free open-source disk encryption software for Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X and Linux (section: Frequently Asked Questions).

                  Cindy, you might want to check the above site out.

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  8. […] This issue would merit a longer discussion, but I did want to say that if he’s struggling for coverage, the problem is of longer term than the last few years. […]

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  9. […] by the observance level of the congregation. I spent the first evening of the holiday at campus Hillel, and the first day, afternoon, and second day of the holiday at a hotel, at an event sponsored by […]

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  10. […]  Images: TheSquee  RecycledVinyl  Jagrant me+Richard […]

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