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Dances With Nuns

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Paul Schroeder's picture

Truth and history are stranger than fiction. What happens when a Jewish Administrative Head of an all Catholic- Convent-attached nursing home is honored at a Catholic fundraiser dinner?

Hell can break loose for a moment as civilized, religiously devout people's masks slip just a bit to reveal primal feelings of hate, underneath.

Imagine a vast ornate ballroom at an exclusive country club, replete with crystal and fine china, redolent with flowers, a ballroom with cathedral windows overlooking an outside surrounding inlet of estuary dotted small islands.

The room, filled with staid black and white outfitted nuns, priests in white collars, Catholic politicians and one, " Your Eminency!", white haired, senior Catholic Bishop sit and chat at a multitude of linen covered tables.

Good natured, genteel and charming, an assemblage of Catholics donors, Catholic entrepreneurs, and clergy quietly and formally converse with each other as an army of polished and groomed waiters in tuxedos begin to circulate.

White-gloved staff quietly serve the seated faithful salads, warm rolls, cognacs and vintage champagne to begin the feast, as an oddly familiar voice at the microphone resonates a blessing,"In Christ's Name, Amen!"

It is a television movie-star, at the microphone!

Uncle Junior, from the HBO series,"The Sopranos?!

Hidden at the fringe of this assembled room filled with devout Catholics, is a small cadre of interloper Jews, my wife and myself, my two children and another Jewish couple, friends of ours, all seated at a far end corner table nearest the microphone.

The voice at the microphone asks table eighteen, a table of nuns from the Convent, to join him on the dance floor and instructs the band what next to play.

He then calls my Jewish wife, the evening's honoree, to join them on the polished wood floor.

The lights dim, the music swells and nuns in severe black and white habits, summoned to the dance floor, surround my Jewish wife and then hold hands with each other.

 The sight of a lone Jewish woman, surrounded by habited Catholic nuns, is quite a thing to behold, in itself, but now

they all chant the words, in ancient Hebrew, to a dance of celebration, a Jewish joyous call to dance,"Hava Nagila"!

A circle dance from ancient Hebrews, performed by  habited nuns,

a religious dissonance, beyond both religion's historical ironies, stuns the room, into shocked silence, all at once.

"Seeing is believing", is refuted by me, as a functioning concept, in my paranormal palavers, but seeing IS indeed believing, in very rare moments, and this is such a very rare moment.

I include the U-tube link, far below.

Surrounded by nuns singing,"Hava Nagila", as they dance in a circle, holding hands, Hora style, my Jewish wife smiles, loved and honored by these nuns, as their Chief Executive Administrator, for an idyllic Catholic nursing home- attached to a Convent.

UNCLE JUNIOR, from the television gangster series," The Sopranos", whose actual name is "Dominic", is the troublemaker man at the microphone.

He is the M.C.
(“I very much like your Christ, but do not at all like your Christians."
Gandhi)
prankster criminal who 'organized' this unrehearsed Jewish celebration dance, performed by nuns, a mob hit on the Church!

Singing Hebrew words and melody, along with the nuns, as host to this Catholic- Church- Dinner with- Many- High Dignitaries, he can be seen, bald headed  in the far background, at the microphone.

Surreal, and spontaneous, via copious amounts of alcohol,  habited nuns, under Dominic's direction, perform a gangster style Convent Hora as the band plays," Hava Nagila".

Was this an evening with Our Lady of Shlomo?

I did notice, carefully watching the room, that the dance of Catholic nuns, singing Hebrew, as they circle my Jewish wife,  at once provokes a discernible spinal stiffening in all of the High- placed Catholic officials in the room; all pleasant chatting ceases, they sit upright, silent, and tight-lipped, and watch in fascination, in a type of muted horror.

You could have cut the shock and dismay in the air, with a Challah bread knife sanctified with Holy Water.

The band used all of its trumpets and keyboards to blast that Hebrew melody, at full volume.

During this dance, over my salad and wine, I  sensed a sudden tangible simmering horror and rage, an untoward, unspoken anger, historically sustained, which had preceded pogroms and Inquisitions.

Murder of a God, deicide, is a crime most serious, with no

statute of limitations, to many trained, devout Catholic minds.

All of the Catholics, at all of the tables  twisted uncomfortably in their seats as they watched and listened in abject disbelief.

Ten seconds after the music stopped and applause echoed, slipped facial masks are quickly put back into place and a timbre of relaxed conviviality and genteel politeness reigned over the room once again.

The expressions of indignation and anger  were not at once subtle and elusive but as obvious as a trout in the milk.

I recall watching a frozen, stunned waiter stopped in mid gesture , during that loud, brash Hora of nuns, who  danced and sang in Hebrew  as they surrounded my Jewish wife.

Over the din of the music I  jokingly had shouted to him,"It's enough to shake your faith!"

Never taking his eyes from the dance, frozen in place, he had nodded slowly, his jaw and eyes forced open by the spectacle.

I leave you the link, below, as evidence and as witness, lest you think that I hallucinated these moments.

It was, after all a most wonderful, extraordinary evening.

Of the fifty tables, two are visible in the below link; my table knew and sang the words, to 'Hava Nagila"  but no one else in the room did.

In retrospect, I tried to convince myself that Catholic clergy and dignitaries were more astonished with dumbfoundedness but there was, when facial masks slipped, an open and genuine resentment and dislike, an unconcealed animosity.

Had I grabbed the microphone and preached Talmud, at that moment, there would have been a pogrom.

I would, in closing, suggest to all devout and resentful Catholics, as well as to devout and resentful Jews, as well, that if the whole world danced together, more often, perhaps, we would resolve ancient conflicts.

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