We have spent the last couple of weeks journeying through England. From our arrival in Heathrow we traveled up to Cambridge, to York, and back down to Oxford and London. England has much storied universities, incredible scholars, and in the weeks ahead I will be posting on my conversations with Drs. Dorothy Bishop (Oxford), Susan Michie (UCL), Alan Baddeley (York), and T.W. Robbins (Cambridge) — among others. While the Journey2Psychology has been my priority since our travels began in late July 2018, we now begin a much more personal sub-journey. We have journeyed to Israel with several members of my family for the Bar Mitzvah of my son in Jerusalem. There are some excellent and amazing scholars in Israel and some wonderful universities. I will visit with none of them. Over the next few weeks will be a time to join with my family and to celebrate a thousand-years old tradition in welcoming my son into adulthood (or at least teenage-hood).
As a part of this journey we have visited with synagogues and Jewish communities all over the world: Sydney, Montreal, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Long Beach, Seattle, Forth Worth. Across continents and oceans, in some communities numbering in the thousands of families and in communities with barely a minion of 10 adults, we have engaged in a process to help our family, and especially my son, to understand this ritual and his religious and cultural background in Judaism. We experienced varying degrees of orthodoxy in practice and Hebrew spoken with Australian, southern US, and Boston accents. Especially as we have been traveling I have felt welcomed and comforted by the communities we have visited and joined at synagogue. This is generally true, but especially those smaller and (often) more remote communities treated us as returning family members. They were excited to have us join in this part of their lives and we were uplifted by their graciousness and grateful for their welcome.
You’ll forgive the outpouring of pride, but during this year my son learned to chant, read and write in Hebrew, to read trope , studied and trained with people in pursuit of being able to perform this mitzvah and claim his adulthood in the Jewish community. This in addition to his daily school work and lessons, and various other interests. There were moments of struggle — especially in the early days as the tasks seemed insurmountable. There were moments of victory as he mastered verse after verse of his parashat. All this while traveling with us the …37,500 mi/60,300 km of our journey so far. He’s grown a lot this year physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
So, while much of the last 10 months have been firmly dedicated to Journeying in pursuit of great psychologists, this portion of our trip is different. It is, in many ways, a culmination of the personal, educational, and communal goals we have as a family making this trip. It was a scholarly challenge to us all in language and culture, a logistical challenge, a financial challenge, and a communal one as we celebrate not just as a nuclear family but a more extended one with grandparents and cousins. On the ride from the airport our driver wished us a mah-ZAL-tov. An expression I’ve heard my whole life, and with his native accent and rhythm made absolutely no sense to me. MaZAL or MA-zel? TOV or tov? So here we are. Studying, learning, adjusting. Hoping to embrace this traditional ritual with the nuances in practice and accent we find by being in our community, but far from what we’ve known as a home.
Images are the river Thames; the incredibly impressive Stonehenge which was both awe-inspiring and in many ways less fun that America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire; graffiti at the skate park along the Thame’s riverwalk (across from Buckingham palace); the earned helmet from escaping the Viking’s quest at Escape Hunt (we made it out with two minutes to spare!); and the intricate doll-sized Hogwart’s castle at Warner Bros studio tour in London (we visited for my son’s birthday).