The Jewish, Parisian husband hunt: Jew camp Shabbat, meet Paris.

Tucked within the traditional cafes and boulangeries of the city streets, lies the Jewish life of the city. It's a community whose muted exterior often reflects little of the vibrancy of culture it holds within-- one that is largely hidden as a means of protection, yet as alive, as rich, as beautiful as Jewish communities spread across the globe.

And so it’s here, in an environment tied by commonality of religion in face of barrier of language, that the search for the Jewish, Parisian husband begins.

The Marais, the Jewish quarter of the city, had been the first discovery. But the strip of falafel restaurants laden with men in tzizit and kippot led nowhere in the search for the not-too-ortho kinda-more-on-the- conservative- level Jewish prince charming.

Kabbalat Shabbat at the Sephardic synagogue (a synagogue that I almost missed given its entrance is a plain, gray door in the back corner of an apartment building) could have potentially been a success seeing as AU standards were reversed and I was the sole woman among a room full of men. But the mechitza (physical barrier that separates men and women in hopes of ensuring greater focus on prayer) barring whatever view I would have otherwise had of the men ahead, posed a significant challenge. And so that plan, too, was abandoned.

Which is why a friend and I ventured to Centre Fleg, a Hillel/ Jewish federation- like organization geared to the younger Jewish crowd. The center was hosting a shabbaton for the weekend; 20 euros guaranteed us a spot for a kosher, Shabbat meal.

We arrived at 5.50 the following evening, in time to light candles. Services followed. I made the mistake of sitting in the men's section, oblivious to the mechitza disguised as a bookcase situated in the very back of the room. 

Services were different, an odd blend of prayers, some raced through, others recited together, a few of which were sung to familiar tunes. 

The evening was lovely, the food worth the exuberant 20 euro fee. I melted when chicken on the bone was served for the main course. And then drooled when I was given two pieces.

Five other men, most of whom were religious, sat at my table. I was pleased I was able to carry on conversation completely in French for a good 45 minutes. As for what we talked about? Absolutely no idea, given it's been a week, but I do recall throwing in my two- week stint as a seminary student in Israel after the man opposite me mentioned his two- years of study at a yeshiva in Israel. 

The traditional songs were sung after dinner—the men on the other side of the room, inspired by their newfound confidence so graciously provided by the abundant overflow of wine, led the crowd in the Shabbat tish songs-- tunes that I know from my years at camp. And like at camp, it’s these songs that, for me, transform the room into an atmosphere of spirit, pride and love in the name of Shabbat. 

It’s this feeling I first experienced at sleepaway camp, one that I have since transferred to other areas of life given camp no longer remains a physical part of my summers. But it’s this connection that Judaism fosters that never ceases to amaze me: the love shared in the name of our culture, the common thread that ties Jews together in all parts of the world—it’s powerful. The songs after dinner were the ones I know from camp, the prayers before the meal are the ones I’ve grown up singing with my family and continue within my Jewish community in college. And while my memories are personal to me, it’s these experiences that bind my connection to this identity I treasure, regardless of where I am in the world.   

I left Shabbat from Centre Fleg on a high note—a high note from having spent my Friday evening in a setting so familiar while in a country so foreign. And as I stepped out from the black gates barring Centre Fleg from public view, I once more became a part of the Parisian evening, an evening that, by initial glance, appears void of Jewish presence. I left satisfied, carrying with me the Jewish life, my personal connection, I'm beginning to develop here in Paris. 

And as for the Jewish, Parisian husband? Well, the search surely takes you to the most interesting of places. 

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