As I have covered in past posts, I’ve made a few valiant efforts to maintain some semblance of my identity, amidst the homogeneity of South Korea, by attending Jewish events, celebrating Jewish holidays, and teaching people (both Korean and fellow ex-pats) about my tribe, The Tribe. I’ve also been honing my haggling techniques at Korean markets, and I think I can safely attribute those skills to my Jewish heritage as well. Also, for the past few months I’ve been working on an article that was just published in Seoulist, comparing Jews and Koreans, and examining the Jewish community in Seoul. Check it out!
Maintaining my Heeb…
In October I attended a Yom Kippur service, ringing in 5762 (the new year) in style at the Chabad House in Itaewon. In December I taught my students and friends in Yeoju about Hannukah, the Jewish festival celebrating the Maccabee’s victory over the Greeks, in which we light candles on a menorah for 8 nights, play dreidle, and eat latkes. (Like every Jewish holiday: we fought, we won, let’s eat.)
In March I attended a very special event hosted by Chabad that celebrated the first ever Sefer Torah in Korea. A hand-crafted Torah scroll from Israel, made specifically for the Jewish community in Seoul. The event began at the Seoul Grand Hyatt, with a special ceremony in which members of the community could have one letter of their Hebrew name inscribed in the final passage of the Torah scroll. There were Chabad rabbis from all over Asia, and of course lots of shmoozing and noshing was involved. In a most ceremonious manner, the Torah was carried through the streets of Seoul with a trail of people singing and dancing, on one of the first warm nights of the year. We definitely made a spectacle of ourselves, which made the celebration that much better. The event culminated in a dance party at the Chabad House in Hannam-dong, with more food, lots of booze, and dancing. An amazingly unique event to be a part of. Read the Seoulist article for more details!
In April, I celebrated Passover at the Yongsan Army Base, surrounded by 70 Jews living in Korea, of all ages, denominations, and professions. The best part about the event was listening to Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl, the Cantor at my synagogue, Central Synagogue in NYC, lead the seder in a thoughtful and meaningful way. She was the first person I had seen from home in about 7 months, so it was also refreshing to see a familiar face.