Columns - 2007

    Where you can go

    This is the time of year when many people take it upon themselves to tell you where you can go. If you're lucky, they're talking about summer travel. There's lots of fancy places to travel to, unusual and exotic locations. And there are plenty of destinations you can fly to that provide a rewarding Jewish experience.

    But for those of you who just can't get away, or who just recently traveled to the Jewish homelands (Israel, midtown Manhattan), there are alternatives closer to home, wherever home might be.

    In case you hadn't noticed, and judging by the regular attendance many of you haven't, there's plenty of interesting and enjoyable sites to visit that just might satisfy your Yiddish yen without the need for layovers, passports, taking off your clothes in line, or airline food consumption.

    Temple - Not the university, the synagogue. There are few bar mitzvahs during the summer, and your misguided peers are often traveling, so there are plenty of seats.

    But temples offer more than services. Many offer interesting lectures, classes, social clubs, libraries, gift shops, and volunteer opportunities. If you're looking for something to do this summer, it is guaranteed that you can walk into a temple looking for something to do and walk out on two committees and signed up to attend some event within a week.

    Many temples have groups for every demographic: men, women, young adults, less-young adults, Torah readers, Torah lifters, singers, singles, couples, and ground-rule doubles. They don't do things just at the temple, you don't need to be a Talmudic scholar to participate and enjoy. And you don't need to patronize websites advertised by former starship captains. And who knows? A little knowledge might rub off while you're there.

    JCC - Not every town with Jews has a JCC, but most larger communities do. Many recently remodeled JCCs are all about the gym and the pool, especially in the summer. But JCCs have been around since the latest health craze was "sensible portions." They have a wealth of other things to do.

    JCCs are less pressure than temples. They're more purely social in nature, less spiritual. You won't feel as awkward not knowing Hebrew or not remembering how to tell a mezuzah from a meshugah. You'll find art exhibits, performances, kosher food, kids sequestered in day camps, libraries, music rooms, and lounge areas filled with enough of your kin to make you say kine hora.

    Summer Camp - There's day camps and sleep-away camps, depending on how much you want to get rid of your kids for the summer. That is, of course, Yiddish for how much you love your little clones but want them to have enriching experiences as far as they can be immersed without drowning. Figuratively. The Surgeon General confirms that Jewish summer camps don't drown kids. The government does.

    We apologize for the accidental insertion of the preceding excerpt from an upcoming column about the 2008 Presidential debates.

    Depending on the camp your child attends, they get exposed to life-changing (in a good way) experiences. Sometimes it's about being Jewish, sometimes it's things from "every day life" simply in a Jewish context, or simply among Jews. But isn't that what it's all supposed to be about?

    No preaching. No missionizing. No brainwashing of you or yours into zealous automatons. That's what the presidential primaries are for.

    We apologize for the second accidental insertion of an excerpt from an upcoming column about the 2008 Presidential debates.

    None of these places will take all your time. You can come as much or little as you like. (Many have proven the latter to be true.) Nobody will hold a grudge, they'll just wish you were there more. And they'll be eternally grateful for your vote.

    We do not apologize for the third insertion of an excerpt from an upcoming column about the 2008 Presidential debates. This one was on purpose, proving the thesis that comedy works in threes. Or bad things come in threes. One of those.

    Don't think any of this fits into your summer plans? So be it. On the bright side, it will all still be there come the fall. And winter. And spring. And a year from now you'll find yourself in the same place again, unless you heed this column now. In the words of the great Jewish sage, Alfred the butler (Michael Gough's, not Michael Caine's), "if not now, when?"

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who has received many suggestions for where he can go, and he can't believe they talk to their kids with those mouths. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.