I understand how Gabe Kahn felt, as an Orthodox Jew and professional member of the tribe, at the URJ biennial. The first time that feeling of discomfort hit me was when I was introduced to the husband of a colleague. I held out my hand for a shake and he backed off as if I were contaminated. At the time I did not understand and felt nonplussed.
Another time, while on a plane, I was asked to change my seat because the ultra-Orthodox man who was assigned the seat next to mine would not, could not, sit next to me. That wasn’t too bad because I ended up in First Class.
We all tend to live, work, and play with people like ourselves and coming into contact with folks who march to a different belief or lifestyle may unhinge us, but we are, after all, one big family whose members have differences and peculiarities. Most of us Jews are proud of who we are and simply accept that we are not all the same. I’m sure that Kahn eventually overcame his discomfort as I have when in the company of those who are vastly different from me and my personal habits as a liberal Jewish woman who identifies as Reform.