Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday night

Some are bothered by leather-wearing worshippers on Yom Kippur, others (me) by obsessive message-checkers during services. As someone told me today after shul: "Now, THAT is wrong. If they would use the phone outside of shul, it would be fine." Huh?

I need to come to terms with what it means to belong to a not-so-observant community. It's not as if I had much choice right now, short of moving and changing jobs which is not an option. I am getting used to my surroundings, to (rather general but still) prayers before university-related meals, to "Jesus is my Lord" on cab doors, and to the warm weather, too. What I can't get used to, apparently, is American masorti Judaism. All these Friday-night-dinner cooking, shul-driving Jews, somehow maintaining their Yiddishkeit in small communities, often without the benefit of a thorough Jewish education... you gotta love them, right?!

Last night, I went to a dinner. I was almost faint with excitement to be in a house with the candles lit and to have a meal I didn't have to cook. We sang Shalom Alechem (each stance 3x!), my host made Kiddush and then, to my surprise, took out a couple of NCSY benchers and proceeded to read Eshet Chayil in English, and the first Psalm, too. Clearly, this was a routine. Amazing! The same was repeated when we said Birkat ha-Mazon, even mezuman was made in English. I had never seen anything like it but, strangely, it was not as alienating as I thought it would be, perhaps, because this was still the traditional text, if in a different language. In fact, it was kind of nice to know that people knew what they were reading...

1 comment:

hominy said...

Hi Ms. Grits - I feel yer pain. I moved to central Florida about a year ago on account of a pretty good academic job offer (my husband's, not mine). Jewishly speaking, it's tough. It's kind of like being in an alternate universe. I say that as a person who has lived 'out of town' her whole life, and who is pretty flexible on many things that a canonical M.O. Jew would probably balk at. The south, for the most part, feels to me like another planet from any other Jewish community I have known.

I don't want to identify myself in public since I already have too much of a reputation for complaining about the sad state of the Jewish community here... let's just say that we live in an urban area of about 1 million people, and so far as we know there are about 8 other families in this huge area who don't drive on shabat. 3 of them are Chabad rabbis (yes, there are 3 different Chabad's in this very large metropolitan area), 2 are conservative rabbis, and I believe there are 3 walking families who daven at one of the Chabads.

We personally don't walk OR drive to shul, and yet we do attend shul most shabatot. How, you ask? We ride bikes (yes, I know, t'hum shabat, no eruv, muktzah, I said, we're not actually M.O.) It's not much of a solution, but it's what we're doing for the moment.

It's fun hearing about your small-town students. Don't you wish you could take them on a field trip to Israel?