Saturday, October 29, 2005

Synagogue with Leah

My house-mate, Leah, is fairly new to Calgary. She’s still getting to know the city and does not have a car. She’s also Jewish and one of her goals and journeys in her first few months here has been to find a synagogue to join. Calgary can be a difficult place to negotiate on public transportation and so, when Leah told me she’d found a synagogue that she thought she’d like, I offered to drive her.

I was thinking I’d drop her off, go have a coffee or go for a walk and then pick her up again later. But she said, “Well, why don’t you just come with me?”

Leah is delightfully open-minded and tolerant and I knew that her question was nothing more than an open invitation. No ulterior motives of conversion or the like. So, I accepted.

We went last night. It was the first time in my life I’d been in a synagogue.

I’ve been to services of various faiths here and there throughout my life (weddings, funerals, going to a service with a friend, etc.) and so, I knew I’d feel somewhat out of place… and I was comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, in this situation, if that makes any sense.

As always when thrown into such situations, I watch, try to follow, keep an open heart and mind and be respectful (reining in my sometimes over-zealous curiosity until an appropriate moment later to ask questions.)

It was an interesting experience… I was surprised to see how much closer it was to Christian services than I expected, apart from the Hebrew and the Torah, of course. And I thought the bilingual Hebrew-English prayer book, that worked from back to front was particularly curious… and delightful! (I’m such a lover of languages… and books!)

I think that every now and then, it’s good to step outside your comfort zone, try something new and appreciate the moment for what it is.

Leah was happy with the service and the people she found there, so I think she’s one step closer to creating her own sense of community in Calgary.

And she was gracious enough to answer the long list of questions I had mentally formulated during the service. I learned a lot.

What a unique way to spend a Friday night!


ipodmomma said...

wht a lovely gesture! and it sounds like you had a very good time...

friends of ours here are Jewish, and in Feb of this year we went to their youngest daughter's bat mitzvah... the service was at a synagogue in Leeds, really a neat experience. their daughter, also Leah, helped lead the service. the family all participated, with her father and uncle and aunt taking the Torah from its place, then her dad carried it around the room, with all the kids followed him up to the altar, including Jocelyn. near the end Leah's mom and her mom came up and did a portion of reading. then Leah's older sister came up too, and it was so neat to see these different generations together...

people sitting near us helped us keep up with the service, getting us to the right page, as it was our first synagogue experience as well.

when we left though, we saw something that made us laugh... we had the only car in the car park with a fish sticker on the back window... that was amusing...

do you go to regular time today? we've ended British summer time. I'm glad, because now it's light at 7 AM, and I can try and get out for a walk earlier than I had been. but soon the days will get short, and it will be back to waiting until 9 AM...

ta ta!


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your intro to Judaism this w/e and I was surprised at how close it was to looking like a synagogue given that the physical space was actually a church....I've pondered your comment re noone approaching us to welcome us and I'll follow up on that this week...que diviertas mucho esta tarde,
adivina quien?

Spider Girl said...

I agree that it can be a very valuable experience to attend other's religious services/holidays.

I'm very lucky that when I was growing up I had parents (and a lovely great-aunt) who liked us children to try different churches out. I attended a spiritualist church, a Hindu temple, and a Jewish temple.

Since then I've been present at pagan rituals, Buddhist New Year's and even services in lovely cathedrals like Canterbury and York in England.

It's all beautiful in its own way.