I was talking to a Catholic friend of mine the other day, and she brought up that she had to head out to church. I asked if she goes to the same service every week, and she said something that really resonated with me. “Some people schedule their week around church. They go to the same service every week, and they almost never skip that service. They know when they go they’ll have the experience they’re looking for. Other people just fit in a service when they can. Sometimes it’s every week, sometimes once a month. They’re the types who fit religion around their existing schedule.”
Sometimes I struggle with a balance. Do I go Friday at 8:00 PM? Saturday at 10:00 AM? Do I go every week? What denomination?
Jews aren’t the only people that have this problem, but it’s nice to be in an area where there are choices. Most of my life, my Christian friends have had so many options, they can do a taste test (so to speak) of churches or styles of service they want to attend. This summer, I am grateful that I have options, despite some being less proximal. I’m just lucky that I liked the closest one, which happens to be the first one I tried. I didn’t go this week, but I know that if I want to hear another inspirational message from the rabbi, I’m only a 10-minute drive away.
I noticed a few things at synagogue during this past High Holy Day season. It was always pretty easy to spot the singles in the crowd. New couples sit together with their heads touching, whispering in each other’s ears, holding hands during breaks and looking smug in their coupledom. Singles are the ones twisting and turning, craning their necks to scan the crowd looking for the other young adults sitting wedged between their doting grandparents and nosy parents. And since it’s the one time of the year when everyone, and I mean everyone, shows up that means all singles have to show up dressed to the nines (yet still respectful of course) because you never know who you’ll run into.
All the Bubbies in the crowd would call attention to the young gentlemen whom they thought were handsome and hearing loss means subtlety gave way to sheer embarrassment as the Bubbies would loudly whisper “Maybe he’s single Honey?” The Mothers wouldn’t even bother trying to be subtle and instead they would actually point – with their pointer fingers – at the single sons of their friends sitting in the congregation. What they never seemed to catch on to is that singles have their own routine down.
The singles will check out the crowd, make eye contact when possible, and brush the hair out of their eyes or scratch their heads with their left hands so that any hopefuls might be adept enough to catch the fact that the ring finger is bare. Bathroom breaks are timed so that as many young singles as possible would follow the lead and get up to go outside at the same time in order to mingle.
Temple is a great place to meet someone because you know right away that the person is family-oriented and you know what denomination they are. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of Judaism, but an opportunity is an opportunity. Kol Nidre is like an added Jewish singles event on the Community Calendar except everyone is dressed in suits instead of little black dresses. A large temple can mean seeing your JDate matches live and in person. Get the most out of the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement as possible: whether that means praying, meditating, meeting your special someone or all three. Trust me your Rabbi will be proud and honored to hear that a new couple met when they went outside for some fresh air during his thirty-minutes-too-long sermon.
On June 6, 2009, when Alysa Stanton, 45, is officially ordained, she’ll create history as the first African American woman to become a rabbi and the first African American rabbi to lead a majority white congregation. In August, Stanton is to begin her new job at Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, NC, a synagogue associated with both the Conservative and Reform movements. Stanton’s ordainment comes at a time when, according to the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, approximately 20% of American Jews are “racially and ethnically diverse by birth…by conversion or adoption.” And, “Approximately 20,000 – 30,000 marriages between Jews and African Americans grew out of the civil rights movement.”
Stanton was born in Cleveland, Ohio and was raised as a Pentecostal Christian, but believes that even at an early age she was, “a seeker.” She converted to Judaism during college in 1987, and after attending Lancaster University in England and receiving a Master of Education degree from Colorado State University in 1992, she then studied Torah at the HUC-JIR campuses in Jerusalem and in Cincinnati, Ohio. When asked if she was born Jewish, Stanton usually replies, “Yes. But not to a Jewish womb.”