Jewish Guy of the Week – Mike

Where did you spend the high holidays?
The high holidays were great this year. They were casual and relaxing; I spent them with my parents. Also, there is a Chabad House by them which I go to.

What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Hands down it’s Purim. It’s my favorite for so many reasons. Kabalistically it’s powerful, the story is truly amazing, the celebrations are epic, and it’s lively and joyful. I’ve heard of High Holiday Jews, but if they only knew what they are missing in Purim, they would surely become Purim Jews.

What one thing do you want to do this year?
My goal is to succeed at work. I recently graduated college and I’m at my first professional job.

Where did you spend your last year?
I was in a yeshiva in Israel for two semesters. It was truly awesome. I went to a yeshiva that is tailored for young, English speaking, Jews that did not grow up with a religious background — it’s called Mayanot. I learned more in two semesters than I did my entire life before.

If you could invite any Jew over for shabbos dinner, who would it be?
Easy question. It would be Shyne. I saw him a few times a walking around in Jerusalem but I was too far removed to set up a Shabbos dinner with him. He would be a very interesting Shabbos guest. I used to listen to his rap as a kid growing up. The way he rapped really struck a chord with me. It was always slow and methodical like an artist painting a ominous picture.If you don’t know his story, Google him. The jist of the story is, he is a semi famous gangster rapper from NY, and went to prison for 9 years because he did not want to testify against his friends.  When he was in prison, he found out that he is halachically Jewish, and then becomes religious … in prison! He gets out, makes aliyah, and now he’s living in Jerusalem walking around in a black hat and kaputa. It’s amazing; you can’t make up lives like these.   (Stephen‘s note:  My favorite Shyne quote:  “There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” (h/t Noa L.))

Where can we find you for Sukkot?
I’m throwing a Sukkah party in Fairfax, VA on Sunday night. Check it out on the GTJ Sukkot Page and through Jnet. There’s going to be lots of people, music, food, and drinks. It should be great.

Did you make your own Sukkah?
Yeah. I will be building one on my own for the first time. PVC pipes, lots of “L” shaped end connectors, tarps, bamboo, and many cotter pins. It should be great.

What’s it like being Jewish in Israel, and being Jewish in the US?
Good question. Being Jewish in Israel is easy. Everyone is on the same page and finding like people with many kinds of similar backgrounds and customs is a breeze. Israel is set up, ready, and waiting for us. On the other hand, in the US, the question of Jewish identity is constantly in our face. “If you’re a Jew, then what am I?” We feel our differences among us in our bones. There is reform, conservative, conservadox, orthodox, modern orthodox, black hat, hassidish, the list goes on and so do the separations between us. In Israel, being Jewish is a gift on a silverplatter, in America we need to focus on staying and acting Jewish.

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