Pop Up Community, Our Family Camping Trip and 9/11

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, August 26th, 2016 – 22 Av, 5776

Pop Up Community

Laura and I were recently driving west on Beaverton Hillsdale Highway when we saw it. The old Pier One had relocated, and in its place was a Halloween store. It seemed so incongruous. The temperature was in the nineties and summer seemed reluctant to go. Or maybe I’m the one who is reluctant to let summer go. Regardless, in just a couple of months, kids will be trick or treating.

Halloween shops (and firework stores) are probably the oldest example of what’s come to be known as pop-up retail. These shops offer a short-lived experience, and then they are gone. Out of this pop-up retail concept, lots of other pop-ups were born. There are pop-up restaurants, especially in hip cities like our own Portland, Oregon. Older examples also abound. Raves fit into this paradigm, and so do events like Burning Man in the Nevada desert “town” of Black Rock City. Check them out on line if you are not familiar with them.

Pop ups are nowadays used to create experiences and engagement around products or brands. More recently, in parts of the business world, entrepreneurs are busy creating “pop up communities.” I wasn’t familiar with the term until researching it when we came back from our family camping trip. Actually, it was during our family camping trip that I was vain enough to imagine that I came up with the term “pop up community” to describe our experience. Here’s why.

Our Family Camping Trip

Camping–camping at camp grounds at least, is the architectural equivalent of the front porch. People who head out to these places far from the reach of cell phones and other distractions are really there to slow down, reconnect and recreate. During the day, everyone’s out doing their own thing. We kayaked, hiked and rode our bikes.

But as dusk gathers, people return to their camp sites. They light fires, they wander on the paths talking to their neighbors, they leave their possessions unattended. There’s a sense of safety and receptiveness to interacting with strangers. Better yet, everyone at a camp site is in the same boat, and that frees you up in the way folks used to have conversations from their front porches with passers by. Everyone’s outside. They are available.

Next “door” to us, a group of campers livened up an evening as they picked up their fiddles and regaled the neighborhood with bluegrass music. We offered them our thanks and gratitude and shared a few stories. Taking an evening stroll through majestic trees, I overheard a woman explaining a yiddish word to her tent mates, and had to say hi. Heck, we even ran into fellow congregant, Linda Cohen who was also enjoying a few days away.

I think these short-lived types of interactions are so valuable, even though the point of a  kehillah like Neveh Shalom is to foster thicker, more substantive and long-lived community. For while our goal is to provide opportunities for deeper relationships that accompany us through our lives and that can therefore transform us, these pop-up encounters remind us of how much we have in common with those we don’t know. These moments inform us that we really are connected and revive our hope in a common humanity. That is also transformative.

In the book of Kohelet, King Solomon opined that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The truth is that pop-up community has been around forever, even if we called it by different names, like the old county fair, or market day. Finding common purpose and joining arms together is an essential human experience. Perhaps we see that nowhere better than after tragedy hits and we gather to support one another and find solace in our company.

9/11 and a Memorial Gathering

In our shared American history, we witnessed that after the horrific events of 9/11. We marveled at the courage of our emergency workers. The notes and flowers left by the holes where two buildings once stood were heart-rending. I personally was deeply moved by reports of  young Orthodox girls who gathered in tents near ground zero and recited tehillim (psalms) throughout the night.

Unfortunately, the clarity of those moments doesn’t last. We forget we are connected. We let ourselves give in to hate and fear. This year marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11. It is also a period in which our country desperately needs the reconnective glue of these pop-up moments.

I want to alert you to one such interfaith gathering that will be taking place on September 11th at the Portland Rizwan Mosque. It’s goal is to remind us of the lessons we’ve been discussing. I’ve been invited to offer a few words, as have other faith leaders, and hope you will join me. Please send an rsvp to kwilkins@nevehshalom.org
so we have a notion of how many CNS folks will be attending.

To make these values of caring and connection explicit, people are also being asked to donate sealed bottles of water (any size, any quantity) as a donation for the Clean Water Drive. All water collected will be given to one of the Portland area schools whose drinking water has been tainted with lead.

Portland Rizwan Mosque
9925 SW 35th Drive
Portland, Or 97219

Sunday, September 11th
12 pm to approximately 1 pm

Peace and blessings,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

You might consider using this article and the following two questions as conversation starters over your Shabbat dinner.

  • What are some examples of pop up community that you have experienced? What have you learned from them?
  • Do you have a “front porch” in your life? A place where you make time and feel free enough to engage with people outside of your normal circle?

Source: Oasis Songs: Pop Up Community, Our Family Camping Trip and 9/11