I have always known that the Smith alumna community is vast and with many resources for current students, and once I graduate, as an alum myself. Yet, something very interesting I have encountered since being in the Northampton/Amherst area is that a nearby school—Hampshire—has quite a history in the Jewish world for disillusioned Jews coming into the school and over time becoming more religious. I know quite a few of these very people, as they tend to stay in contact in some way or another with the Jewish community in the area. For example, the Chabad rabbi’s wife herself was a Hampshire student before becoming religious. Anyways, I ate Shabbat dinner at the house of one of these very women. She had a fascinating story and it makes me think about what it is about Hampshire that has “bred” so many religious—specifically Chabad—women. Is it Hampshire itself or the people who choose to go to Hampshire?
This woman, who lives in Kfar Chabad, a neighborhood just outside Tsfat, is married to a major Chassidic scholar who has deep family roots in Israel. (His family came to Tsfat in the 1700′s– as his wife said, “they were the original zionists”.) The fact that he married a Baalat Teshuva (Returner to the Faith) is quite a surpise and out of the ordinary, and I had quite a nice time talking to her about how the two of them got together. (Her husband spoke beautiful yiddush and very good Hebrew, but absolutely no English.)
It was a very interesting dinner, complete with in-laws from Bnei Brak who came from the misnagdim (“opposition” to hasidism) and had much to say about the “plight” of Jews in America. Oy.