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Two Jews, Three Synagogues

Went to neighbor's confirmation (read: graduation from Hebrew high school, the post-b'nai mitzvah classes) this morning. Service was some four hours long, and very strange. Note: the girl and her family go to a very Reform shul. Understandably, what struck me first was that the shul was making a big deal about confirmation at all. The concept of confirmation was hijacked from the Catholics about 100 years ago (only fair, since they kidnapped our holy book and ran off with it; I jest -- well, mostly), and it's largly still a Reform thing; to the majority of the Jewish community; b'nai mitzvah makes one a Jewish adult, and one doesn't get another special service until one gets married. The "confirmation class of 5766" (had forgotten what year it was, so that was amusing to note; and yes, we've been counting almost 3800 years longer than our Christian cousins, which only adds to calendrical confusion) was some 20 kids, and an almost 50-50 boy-girl split. Coming from a shul where my b'nai mitzvah class was six kids, and only one went on to Hebrew high school, this was most entertaining.

Things went, in my opinion, downhill from there. During the course of the service, there were, at maximum, four guitars and a tabla-like drum on stage, though on average it was only two guitars. For those who might not know, Judaism is normally an a capella religion. No organs, no guitars, and certainly no drums. To take full advantage of the (in my mind) out-of-place stringed instruments, many of the prayers had musical accompaniment. Now, there's always a bit of difference in prayer melodies from one shul to the next, especially between sects, but these prayers were all set to major-key melodic tunes sung over chord progressions in the guitar. For those of you who don't know, the majority of traditional Jewish prayer is set to drone-like, !melodies in gut-wrenchingly minor keys (leading the the standing joke I have with Frezzo that I can always tell when something's minor because it's in my blood). Prayer is one of the unifying parts of Judaism; no matter where one goes, they prayers will be the same, even if the melodies differ slightly. After the fall of the temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of the true Diaspora, the Shabbat and weekday services were a unifying factor all over the world, could be performed anywhere, and really only needed ten people ('minyan', the term for those ten, doesn't actually mean ten men, it means ten Jews), and only that if one was doing a full service with torah reading. Doing the prayers they way they did them at this shul, all sense of community is lost because most people don't know the melodies and therefore cannot participate (the couple behind us, who seem to be congregants rather than guests, were mentioning that the melodies are different each time they come to services). Jewish services are audience-participation, which is hard to do if the audience doesn't know what you're doing.

The service consisted of the bare bones of a normal Sunday Rosh Hodesh (first of the month) service, interspersed with the actual kids talking about prayer, world peace, and what Judaism means to them. As one might of expected, a service written by 20 tenth graders was Agnostic or Deist at best, and rather anarchic. I happened to agree with some of the things they said (the most radical ones, of course, my favorite being "a life lived by the literal word of the Torah is a life lived under the cape of ignorance"), but it was amazing, to my Conservadox-raised self, that they were allowed to express any opinion, and especially ones that were anti-organised religion and anti-the Jewish concept of God. For better or for worse, their shul put a much better hook in them than mine ever did.

Please note that the above rant is not against the Reform movement, or Judaism itself, but rather my own personal thoughts about the service, in comparison to the way I was raised, which was in a backwards, old-fashioned synagogue that was much more Orthodox than either my or my 'rents' beliefs (let me again remind you that I was the first woman to carry a Torah scroll during services only six years ago, I was not allowed to read Torah at my bat mitzvah, and women are still not allowed to read Torah). I'm slightly confused at how much my mother liked the service, as (politically and socially) conservative as she is; I think she's looking for another shul now that Evan's bar mitzvah, and I shudder to think that she's considering there. A more Reform shul would be fantastic, but not one with a tenor hazzan, an aggressively soprano "songleader", and guitars on the bimah. Thankfully, Temple Shalom is far from the only Reform shul in MoCo.

Totally unrelated, I hooked up the hard drive yesterday, and it works like a charm. I've already moved all the Stargate episodes to it, and the older school work I'm keeping on file, and will probably be backing up much of my writing on it. *pets it*

Worked on bar for four of the five hours of my shift last night, all by myself, during two rushes, including the closing rush, so each serving of milk had to be steamed and foamed individually. Shit, that's tiring. It's also proof that I'm insane; it was nerve-wracking and I loved it. Last night's Good Customer Award goes to the motorcycle-riding gent who, after his drink was miscalled, told me to go ahead and remake his drink last, he had plenty of time. It was such a simple thing, but it was so helpful. I was mildly annoyed at the lady who ordered the macchiatto (espresso shots poured over a cup of foam; not a caramel macchiatto, which is espresso shots poured over a cup of milk containing an inch-thick layer of foam on top, so the shots form an almost heart-shaped hole in the foam, and caramel sauce in quantity on top) and then got pissy at me when the drink was not made quickly, despite the backlog of almost 20 drinks, especially when I had to check how to make the drink, since macchiattos are not often ordered. She was a little nicer when I rebrewed her espresso shots and made the drink as she watched, but it was a little thoughtless of her. I work eight hours tomorrow, and hopefully I'll be bar-certified soon.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
raychel_tumin
Jun. 5th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)
In our defense, I must say...
Firstly, I voted for the "traditional" tunes (they're not exactly traditional, since they're only been around for 20 years or so), but the majority of my class (by 1) wanted out confirmation to be more of a showcase than participatory. The guitars/drums and such were because most of the kids in my class are in NFTY and it reminds them of it.
Also, one of the most important concept of confirmation at my synagogue is that we're presented with the facts/text, told how other people have interpreted it and what they've said, and we have to decide for ourselves what we believe. The rabbi often doesn't agree with what we've said, but puts it in because it's what we believe.
In a way, though, by turning the congregation into more of an audience, we displayed how we've really become our own community and we rely one another. The people in that class have become some of my closest friends, and I was the one everyone thought would drop out because of such strong animosity towards my classmates.
So basically, sorry you hated my confirmation, but it was really the way most of the class wanted it and it was a service for us.
melayneseahawk
Jun. 5th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: In our defense, I must say...
I didn't hate it, babe. It was just very different than what I'm used to. I don't think I could regularly go to services at your shul, but I think it worked for a one-time special event kind of thing.
raychel_tumin
Jun. 9th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC)
This weekend is GAY.
DC's Pride Parade is Sat. @ 6:30pm (Dupont Circle), if you're interested. You can get info @ http://www.CapitalPride.com
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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