Sometimes, in services, I try to imagine what an outsider might feel if they experienced it with me. Am I so used to this that someone may find it really odd and hard to reconcile?
I picture my parents attending, totally confused, or atheist/agnostic friends approaching Judaism for the first time, attending out of curiousity more than anything.
For me, I’m always happy to attend a service of someone else’s religion. I think it’s something to experience in your life, even if you don’t believe or you disagree with it, and I feel strong enough in my own personal convictions that I strongly doubt anyone would try/attempt to bring me around to neglecting mine in favour of theirs. To be scared that someone will try to “convert you” is kinda silly, in my opinion. We are all capable of saying no. I do however, understand how uncomfortable that can be sometimes. This wouldn’t happen in shul at any time, as we do not “recruit” or proselytise in Judaism, but I can understand that this is a huge part of the doctrine of some Christian denominations and it can make some feel uneasy.
I think our services are pretty mild and inoffensive, and despite the Hebrew singing and occasional Hebrew prayers, most of it is in English and fairly easy to follow. Having attended Catholic school (and many masses), as well as Anglican church services many a time, I believe a Christian would feel comfortable with the words we use, despite the obvious distinct lack of Jesus. And those of a Liberal leaning will hopefully feel comforted by the gender-inclusive language, the prayers for Israel and Palestinians, the participation by men and women in services, the talk of LGBT charities we support.
My Rabbi has such a stunning singing voice, I think he would have had a career out of it if he did not feel called to leadership in his religion. It’s one of the aspects I think my mother would enjoy, and despite a lack of accompaniment, we sing cohesively most of the time. Many have a part to play, from “dressing” and “undressing” the Torah scroll (taking off a ribbon and velvet covering, etc), to the honour of reading aloud from the Torah or the prophetic reading. Someone has the duty of lifting the Torah for all to see, and then parading it around the congregation, in a celebratory fashion.
Afterwards there is a little wine and bread as we make kiddush, catch up and exchange gossip before parting ways for another month (our community is small and we have no synagogue to call our own, so use a community centre once a month). It’s not as exciting, however, as the picture above, which is from one of our Passover seders. Mainly we just stand around a table and catch-up before slowly all taking our leave.
It’s interesting to think of it as an outsider. It wasn’t that long ago that I was an outsider too.
Do you have a religion? What are your services like?…xxx