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"Stand on the Right; Walk on the Left:" A Plunge into the World of DC Min'hagim

"Stand on the Right; Walk on the Left:" A Plunge into the World of DC Min'hagim

Elliot Kort is a participant in the RAC's Machon Kaplan program for college students. He is student at the University of Kansas and an intern at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

I love the Metro. I mean, seriously. As far as adoration for any means of public transportation goes, my love for the DC metro rail system knows no bounds. So while preparing myself for the idea of picking up life in Kansas and planting myself in the nation's capital for a summer, I was intrigued to hear that there are certain (un)written rules that all Washingtonians follow.

"When you're on the escalator headed to the metro, stand on the right and walk on the left," my girlfriend instructed me. "Some people like to get to the train faster than others."

Hearing this, I couldn't help but take pause. When I was young and in religious school, I learned about how every Jewish community has a set of customs, min'hagim, that govern its standard mode of operations: when to stand and sit during prayer; what to eat and not eat; the inclusion/exclusion of certain prayers from the worship service. Every little bit told some of the story that makes that community unique.

So it is with DC.

Since making my way to the Machon Kaplan program, I've tried to reconfigure how I perceive local customs in hopes that I might better understand this bustling community and (even more hopefully) become a part of it. Sure, you can say, that's all good and well... but isn't it just people being nice and trying to stay out of one another's way? It very well could be. But I enjoy looking at these questions/circumstances through a Jewish lens. So if you happen to see me the next time I'm hopping a train or taking part in something definitively Washington, look closer. I'm finding my place.

Published: 6/17/2009

Categories: Social Justice, Uncategorized
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