WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SYNAGOGUE? 
   



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WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SYNAGOGUE?

Now we know that many people had TERRIBLE experiences in their synagogues when they were growing up.  We've heard about the insensitive Rabbi - the tyrannical Hebrew teacher - the materialistic congregants - etc...  

We say: Forget all that!  It's a new world in Synagogue these days - it's a new generation of Rabbi's - it's even a new generation of congregants.  You'd be surprised at the number of hip, savvy people - artists and writers! - who show up in Synagogue these days.  Why?  Because there is so much more GOOD stuff - GREAT stuff - than all the bad stuff you remember. Times are different now - and you're different now, too.  We say go and check it out.  If you don't like one Synagogue - try another.  Different strokes and styles and congregations for different folks.  It's called Shul Shopping - checking out the different Synagogues available to you.  You're guaranteed to learn a great deal doing it. 

Once you start going regularly to a Synagogue you like - especially Shabbat services - you may find it habit-forming.  You start to look forward to Saturdays and seeing the same folks - catching up with them - hearing the Torah Parsha (portion) discussed each week - watching a fellow congregant struggle through the reading of the Haftorah and vigorously offering congratulations ("mazel tov!") when he/she's finished - and then sharing a delicious Kiddish (goodies).  There's a lot that happens in the Synagogue on Saturday and it just might surprise you how good it is. 

The fact is:

Synagogue is the center of Jewish Community life. 

  • It's where we go to pray as a COMMUNITY -
  • It's where we go to connect with the Infinite Power of G-d -
  • It's where we go to connect with one another -
  • It's where we go to learn about Jewish subjects -
  • It's where we go to discuss Jewish subjects - and current events - and anything else we care to talk about with other Jews -
  • It's where we go to teach our children about Judaism -
  • It's where we go to celebrate the wonderful Jewish holidays -
  • AND it's where we go to eat!
  • (It's also a good place to look for a Jewish partner...)

It really is the center of Jewish communal life. 

Of course there are many different reasons to go to Synagogue.  You can go for the social life if you wish - that's a perfectly good reason to go.  Many people find it's an effective anti-depressant - to put on some decent clothes (hey - dress up! - that's the most fun) and go hear some great stories (from the Torah) and uplifting ideas - usually a pretty thoughtful sermon - and some beautiful prayers and songs - and then the Kiddish - "refreshments!"  It's really quite lovely. 

Judaism is so RICH with good stuff - important ideas and ideals - challenging concepts - DEPTH - a group of bright interesting people to interact with - celebrations galore - and great food.  Enjoy it - it's YOURS to enjoy! 

I have had three GREAT experiences with Synagogue in my life - three different synagogues - three different branches of Judaism - and all were truly GREAT EXPERIENCES.

The first great experience was with my friend from junior high school, from back in the Boston suburb we both grew up in.  We had both moved to New York and she - very smartly! - had married a Nice Jewish Doctor - a really fine man - and they had moved to Westchester County.  Only thing was, he tended toward Orthodoxy - as he had been brought up - and she tended toward Reform - which fit with her feelings better.  Fortunately they could afford to belong to TWO synagogues.  So, since the kids went with him to the Orthodox synagogue for High Holy Day services, she would invite me to keep her company in the Reform synagogue. 

The funny thing was that the rabbi of her synagogue was actually the younger brother of the rabbi of the Reform Synagogue I had attended as a kid.  So the entire experience was extremely familiar to me - very deja vue - including the rabbi's voice!  Actually he was a BRILLIANT rabbi - and having grown up in the Orthodox community, he was also imbued with a great knowledge of the traditions - though he was a committed Reform Rabbi. 

I came to love going to services at that synagogue.  The music was so beautiful - and the service was stunningly DEEP - it brought tears to my eyes often.  (If you want to attend services where the congregation actually LISTENS TO EVERY WORD - and UNDERSTANDS what the CONCEPT IS - and you can HEAR A PIN DROP throughout the entire service - you might try the Reform Branch.  It IS easier to understand the service, since large parts of it are in English - and also the current prayer books - the Gates of Prayer and the Gates of Repentence - are written with a truly poetic sensibility.) 

And the Rabbi was so smart and articulate - he blew me away with his sermons - he blew a lot of people away.  He had a very loyal following until his retirement just a few years ago. 

The only thing was, after the High Holy Day service, feeling very uplifted - we'd go home to a lovely meal - and end up in these very "lively" discussions - (ie, screaming arguments!) with my friend's husband - who was very strongly NEGATIVE on Reform Judaism.  Well - this was all great fun actually - very stimulating - and in fact it's the root of why I am where I am today, vis a vis, Judaism. 

I would argue vociferously AGAINST Orthodoxy - which I saw as being from the Dark Ages!  Of course the fact is, I really didn't KNOW anything about Orthodoxy.  And one day I realized that.  And I said to myself, I will be able to argue better AGAINST Orthodoxy if I knew something more about it. 

Around that time I decided I had better learn to read Hebrew.  I hated being so IGNORANT, I hated not knowing how to read Hebrew.  So, I signed up for the Hebrew Crash Course given by the National Jewish Outreach Program - a great program that has helped thousands of Jews to read Hebrew.  I highly recommend it - and it's FREE.  (Call 1-800-44- HEBREW - 0r go to their website: www.NJOP.org.)   When they sent me the list of synagogues in my area that were giving the course, most of them were Orthodox - and I figured - ok, here's my chance to learn something about Orthodoxy.  The synagogue with the right schedule for me happened to be in an industrial section of Manhattan - not far from my home - and so that's where I went. 

I loved learning to read Hebrew.  At last I had a CLUE as to what was going on in the service!  But what really amazed me was that the people in the synagogue were so nice - and so many of them were kind of like me - a bit off-beat, somewhat artistic, characters! (partially because there were lofts in this neighborhood, with artists in them.)  And the bright young Rabbi with a long scraggly beard and black clothes - a seemingly born-into-the-fold Lubavitcher turned out to be a "baal tschuvah"- a "returnee" to traditional Judaism.  He was actually a true intellectual from an academic family - something like mine! - with a degree in art - like I had! - and with a brillilant, super-dry wit that was a delight to those who understood his quiet, ironic, understated manner. 

He would invite me to the various activities in the synagogue.  And I actually took him up on it and started going to these classes and Torah discussions and Purim parties - and even SERVICES! 

The first time I looked around a synagogue and realized that I knew just about everyone in the place was in this little Orthodox synagogue in this strange semi-deserted industrial section of Manhattan.  And I loved the realization that I knew just about everyone in the synagogue!  I couldn't believe that this experience was taking place in an ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE! - as I truly wasn't Orthodox!

I also loved watching the men daven - pray - wrapped in their white and blue tallisim (prayer shawls).  It was exotic to me - and beautiful - and I felt a sense of connection to the Jewish communities that had been wiped out by Hitler's evil doings - and I saw what had been so special about this old way of life.  I loved that connection to the rich and beautiful past of Judaism. 

It was through that synagogue that I came to understand so much more about Judaism.  And I came to have a great respect for the beauty and richness of Orthodoxy - of traditional Judaism - and all that it offers - which is a HUGE amount. 

Eventually, that little synagogue had to close it's doors because the industry it was attached to had changed over the years and there was no longer adequate support to keep the doors open.  We - the motley crew of congregants - were simply STUNNED WITH SADNESS and heartbreak at its closing - it was just a stunner...

I turned to a Conservative synagogue which was traditional and closer to my home - and, also, closer to my beliefs.  This Synagogue was in a tiny old house in the Village - with a garden in front - a very rare item in New York City - and it had a group of very committed people in it (there's always a group of very committed peole who keep these places going - and God Bless them! - without them - there'd be nothing!)  I started going to services regularly and I came to love the service there - (the full traditional service) - the singing was so beautiful - (several people were musical and able to harmonize) and I got very attached to the congregation - to the whole experience.  And tears would come to my eyes when the service was especially moving - or when there would be life-cycle events - like a bris - or a baby naming - or the blessing of a couple about to be married.  I seem to be always weeping in synagogues - because the things that happen there are truly moving!...

Now I am spending a great deal of time in the country and the only synagogue in our region is a traditional synagogue with a dwindling congregation.  Most of the young people in this community have moved away and that leaves mostly older people in the synagogue - and some of them have fallen ill recently.  AND they've had rabbi troubles - and other complications.  It's tough to keep these little places going but hopefully there will be some kind of renewal that will come to this area that will perk-up the synagoge.  It's an ever-changing situation with synagogues.  But one that interests me - because syngagogues and services and the community are so absolutely central to practicing Judaism. 

We hope you are able to find a synagogue - and a community - that "speaks" to you and your beliefs and practices...  It's very, very rewarding when you find the right one for you.  But we do offer this one suggestion when you find one that seems like it might be Ok:  Hang in there!  Yes - there will be people who will annoy you - and policies that annoy you - and things you don't like.  But we say USE THE SYNAGOGUE as an opportunity to learn more about Judaism - to deepen your practice of Judaism and to become PART of a Jewish community.  That's a wonderful feeling in and of itself - that you're NEEDED - as you surely are.  But you gotta hang in there with it - until you "get attached" - and THEY "get attached"  to you.  And that's when it gets truly rewarding. 

For more ways to deepen your Judaism,
CLICK HERE for 18 Ways to Deepen Your Judaism.

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SHALOM! WELCOME! (HOME)  |  SPONSOR A KEHILLAH AD!  |  OUR MISSION - OUR PLAN  |  NON-DENOMINATIONAL?  |  THE DEVALUATION OF JUDAISM  |  SHOP KEHILLAH! BOUTIQUE  |  18 REASONS WHY IT'S GREAT TO BE JEWISH  |  18 WAYS TO DEEPEN YOUR JUDAISM  |  THE ONE JEWISH RITUAL FOR YOUR FAMILY...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SHABBAT?  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - FRIDAY NIGHT  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - SATURDAY  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SYNAGOGUE?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT READING HEBREW?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT KEEPING KOSHER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT JEWISH PRAYER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ISRAEL?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT MARRYING JEWISH?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ORGANIZED RELIGION?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT "ANCIENT"...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT PRESERVING JUDAISM?  |  NOT A BELIEVER?  |  THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING JEWISH  |  YOUR OBJECTIONS - THINGS YOU HATE!  |  ARE YOU A SINGLE PARENT?  |  ARE YOU CREATIVE?  |  ARE YOU "MIXED?"  |  SMALL PLEASURES...  |  GOOD STORIES  |  THE "WOMAN" ISSUE  |  OUR BOLD RADICAL PROPOSAL...  |  ADVERTISE TO EDUCATE!  |  OUR PRO-JUDAISM AD CAMPAIGN  |  KEHILLAH RADIO & TV  |  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR JUDAISM...  |  JEW VS. JEW  |  PASSOVER - ONE THING YOU CAN DO...  |  Shrek on Judaism!  |  Mel Brooks - On Being a Jew  |  Kirk Douglas: Why Be Jewish?  |  Rabbi Harold Kushner  |  Joe McCain on The Jews & Israel  |  American Presidents and The Jews  |  KEHILLAH is dedicated to...  |  LINKS TO Jewish Organizations, Charities & Websites  |  CONVERSION TO JUDAISM  |  GILLIE'S RECIPES  |  JEWISH HUMOR  |  NY TIMES: BRING BACK SHABBAT! PERSONAL STORY...  |  DO YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?  |  Contact Information  |  YOUR FEEDBACK PLEASE!  |  TO HELP SUPPORT KEHILLAH

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