I love changing things up. Hell, that’s the whole point of this blog, right? Trying new things, adding excitement, embracing the eclectic.
When I moved two months ago, I was excited for a number of reasons, but mostly because I was finally somewhere I knew I’d want to stay forever. As much as I love to break out of my comfort zone, I like having that sense of “home” around me, and Boston is where that’s at. I couldn’t be happier where I am right now!
When you finally find that “hometown” you’ve always wanted, there are things you need to do: officially become a resident (register to vote, register your car, get a new drivers license, etc.), find a good bunch of medical professionals (I’m still working on this one), and find the other stuff (mall, place of worship, movie theatre, supermarkets, hair salon, mechanic, and all that jazz).
Most of the “other stuff” still hasn’t been found, but I did hunt down one thing: a synagogue. I’m not exactly the best Jew ever (I love bacon, for one thing… but, then again, I wasn’t raised keeping Kosher… that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) and I haven’t belonged to a congregation in, oh, two years (and only attended on the high holy days), and my stance on organized religion isn’t exactly a positive one, but I enjoy the traditions of Judasim and want to make sure it stays a part of my life. I had a few things that were important things to consider when making my decision:
- Near public transit, in the event I don’t want to drive there.
- Welcoming to interfaith couples and families… since, ya know, I was born into an interfaith family and am currently in an interfaith relationship!
- Open-minded and modern, i.e. inclusive to LGBT, eldery, young folks, and gentiles like my boyfriend.
- Reform, not Reconstructionist. I don’t exactly understand what Reconstructionist Judaism is, but I think it’s a little too wishy-washy and liberal, even for outspoken little ol’ me.
- Inexpensive. There are dues in Judaism (my boyfriend still doesn’t get this, and I don’t exactly know how to answer people when they ask why we have annual dues… so don’t ask me!) and some of the “popular” synagogues in the area cost an arm and a leg. As much as I want to help out the facilities, clergy, staff, and religious school, I don’t want to put half a paycheck towards it… at least not in this phase of my life.
I e-mailed and even called a few places, looked up their dues and payment options, learned out the groups within it (sisterhood, brotherhood, choir, volunteerism, etc.), the type of congregants (young professionals? old-school?), location and facilities. I ended up choosing Temple Israel, a reform synagogue about a 10 minute drive (or 18 minute bus ride) from my apartment.
I read the congregation is pretty mixed, but mostly young couples and young families. They have a 20-and-30-somethings group that has events and volunteer activities. They are 100% welcoming to everyone regardless of religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or denomination of Judaism.
I went to my first Shabbat service last Friday since the boyfriend was out of town and I had the night to myself. I figured it was as good a time as any to give the place a shot. The facility is very old but was recently renovated. It’s very, very nice and so bright and welcoming! Compared to my previous synagogue (in Cincinnati) which was basically a huge cathedral-like building, this one seemed very boring, but in the end I deemed it to be nice, but different.
Some interesting things about Temple Israel is that the room the services were in used to be an auditorium, and despite the renovations, it still kind of has that feel. There are no pews or formal alter (very weird to me!) – instead, there is just a raised section of the floor towards the front of the room that has three music stands and a mobile altar for the Torah. There were three rabbis at the service, which is two more than I’m used to! One had a guitar, and there was a lot more music than I’m accustomed to… all of it fairly modern. Most of the prayers that I’m used to just saying were sung here instead. (I sang quietly because I was really bad at faking that I knew what tune it was.
Also, the congregation was as varied as I was informed. There were very, very old people as well as young couples, families with small children, young adults on their own (I wasn’t the only one!), and two male-to-female transgendered ladies across the aisle from me. It was pretty awesome to see such a mixed crowd! One very strange thing that I noticed was that many of the men – at least half! – weren’t wearing yarmulkes! I know my Catholic boyfriend is happy about this, as he’s not comfortable with the idea of wearing one!
The sermon was very short, which is awesome, and at the end they actually asked people to stand if it was their first, second or third time there… so I did… along with a good amount of young people! It was pretty awesome. Afterwards there was challah and wine, which is another thing that I had never experienced after a regular Shabbat service. It was a nice touch!
Overall, it was a good experience and I’m very happy with my choice! Just in time, too, as the new year is next month!