i’ve been sitting in on an Integrated Media class at Calarts called “Parallel Worlds.” we talk a lot about science fiction, technology, utopias, and, of all things, the city of Los Angeles. but i always make connections more personal, at least more visceral to me… i think about the loss, preservation, exoticising of history and archives, i think about the body and all the spaces we inhabit in our imaginations as parallel worlds.
and then the other day in class we were discussing Coney Island and the uses of amusement parks as controlled, city-like spaces that are somehow supposed to simulate anarchy. and i remembered the Orthodox Union-sponsored Jewish youth group i was active in growing up, NCSY (National Council of Synagogue Youth). every year on passover for one day, NCSY would take over 6Flags Great Adventure, an amusement park and kasher it. and given what purposes amusement parks are meant to serve, i find this phenomenon fascinating. and that this takeover happen on passover is really interesting… a holiday which remembers the Exodus story of extreme despair, miracle, freedom, oppression, and sadness.
i recently read a book called “New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora” by Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, which talks about the myriad ways jews have made homes around the world. they see the de-centering of israel as the idea of the jewish homeland as a necessary step in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the jewish experience around the world as vibrant, valuable, significant, and worthy. they argue that the collective desire of jews to return someplace is outdated, especially because israel is such a fraught place, and clearly not the answer to escaping and surviving anti-semitism.
i was thinking about this book in the context of the phenomenon of NCSY’s jewish takeover of 6Flags on passover and the possible misunderstanding of the jewish “utopia” as a “diaspora.” in other words, i think, and what Aviv and Shneer argue, is that perhaps the jewish diaspora is actually a utopic situation for the jews… in any case, i can’t really imagine what a jewish utopia might involve outside of what i was taught about the coming of the moshiach (messiah)…