I’ve been called an honorary Jew, having been married to a Jewish man for over 25 years. I’m not sure that counts, seeing that in all those years my ex-husband never attended Temple or practiced his faith. No high holidays were ever observed, no Hanukah candles lit. So, why, does most everyone I meet assume I’m a Jew, and why do I sometimes feel like one?
It could be because I schlep, I kibitz, I have done many a mitzvah, and I am in love with a mensch. I’ve been going to Temple now for almost 2 years, an experience I’ve chosen to share with the wonderful man I now share my life with. In that time I’ve witnessed a faith that is open, accepting, loving and giving. I would like to think of myself as all those things.
Each Shabbat I’ve listened to prayers that are offered up asking for God’s blessings for all men/women, for peace, strength, favor, and healing. But mostly I hear prayers of thanks. There is a lot of gratitude in the Jewish faith. I think we could all stand to be a little more grateful.
My father raised, baptized, and confirmed me as a Catholic. My mother raised, taught and baptized me a Baptist. She took me to her church every opportunity she had. I know my catechism, the Stations of the Cross and I know my Praise the Lord renditions of the old Baptist way. I am not uneducated in the world of organized faiths, but there is no church that has me as a member. I consider myself to be a faithful person but shun the term “religious”.
I am open and appreciate all faiths that are open and patient with me. Faith is a good thing, and God, whatever name you choose to call him, is gracious and loving. I have to say, in attending synagogue, there’s something to be said for attending a worship service and not be aggressively recruited or reminded how much of a sinner I am. I appreciate both of the omissions.
There is so much about the Jewish faith I won’t even pretend to understand. I may study it one day. I’m sure I’d be the better for it. But I do understand the foundation, the music, the feeling of gratitude that fills the synagogue. It uplifts me and it encourages me.
When I attend Shabbat services, I do so without any reservations. I am there with an open mind to support the man who has my heart. With so much of the evening being in Hebrew, I greatly appreciate the Rabbi’s woven explanations of the evening’s prayers and service. They are beautiful; positive, hopeful and gracious. All things I aspire to be.
I am motivated to come back greatly by the music, and the man who sings it. They are called Cantors, and I learned very quickly that we don’t applaud them. Too bad, because he sings with such love, such emotion and such intent, that I want to leap to my feet and put my hands together loudly. (I imagine that the old Baptist way of raising your hands up in the air and swaying to the music would be deemed inappropriate.)
I listen, not understanding a word, but knowing everything that is being conveyed. I read along in the book (definitely not called the Bible), and am able to get a real translation. I appreciate the words almost as much as I do the voice. I don’t understand why Jews don’t pass a basket in the service for contributions from the congregation for the synagogue. After listening to our Cantor, if a basket were passed in front of me, I’d be putting in some big money. It’s what thankful people do; contribute; at least in a perfect world.
It occurs to me that if we really want to make it a better world, we should support those people and those things that do right by us. Synagogues and Churches are among those ‘things’, along with family, friends, and country. Jews live this, and they vehemently support their Synagogues and their homeland, Israel. I can only imagine what they are feeling in watching the events unfold in Egypt. In some strange way, I feel it too; the fear, the uncertainty, the need to prepare and to pray.
The feelings Jews have for Israel is not like anything I’ve seen. It’s committed, it’s quiet, it’s precise, and it’s serious. It feels very American to me. The dedication and quiet resolve is a little off putting, in a good way. While I don’t pretend to understand it, I can feel the passion, the purpose of it all, and I share in some of that. I guess you could call me an American Catholic Baptist almost Jew.
I’m happy just to be invited. The people, the message, the peace, the food; don’t even get me started on the food. Oye Vey! (What do they do to those cabbage rolls that make them so heavenly?)
I have lots of questions. They range from matzo balls, black hats and long curls, the book of life, to the sounding of the ram’s horn, the bris ceremony, and bar mitzvahs; all for another time, another discussion. Until then, I will learn, enjoy, eat and try to be a good American Catholic Baptist almost Jew. Oh, and yes, I will pray.