Today is February 23, 2018 -
There is an old joke about a Jew, deserted on an island, who builds two synagogues–the one that he attends and the one that he refuses to step into. I’m not a fan of this joke.
I’m actually quite the opposite. I am encouraged by various forms of Jewish expression and Jewish pluralism. I, of course, have the synagogue to which I belong and attend regularly, but I love visiting other synagogues.
While in Israel, I went out of my way to look for synagogue opportunities that are hard to find in Northeastern New York.
One Friday night I went to a Yemenite synagogue. The liturgy is a bit different, but quite recognizable, whereas pronunciation and melody are very different. For example, we pronounce the prayer over wine, “borey pre hagafen.” Spelled the same way, they pronounce the prayer, “borey pre hajofan.”
Another Friday night I went to an Italian synagogue. Again, the liturgy is a bit different, and I did not recognize any of the melodies until we got to Adon Olam. The chazzan, or leader, also chanted every word out loud, while the congregation chimed in at the beginning and ending of each paragraph. This is very different for us.
One afternoon I went to a mincha service at the Western Wall with Albany native, and childhood friend, Rabbi Sam Shor. After walking around a bit, and not noticing a service about to start, Sam yelled out, “MINCHA.” Within ten seconds, we had our minyan (quorum) and were underway. The service was very familiar, as Rabbi Sam grew up in my synagogue, but the ten-second minyan experience was quite amazing for me.
While every experience was different, the common thread among all experiences was the warmth and hospitality that I received as a fellow Jew. My skin is a different color; my language is different; my liturgy is different; my country of birth is different, and my country of ancestry is different, and yet everyone said, “amen” after my prayers. I really felt like I was in the Jewish Homeland.