Thursday, November 18, 2010
Synagogue Shopping Season
I looked chagrined. Every good Jewish mother knows she's supposed to book the date with the synagogue at two years out and I'm at one year and nine months. What's the problem?
Is it that I'm afraid that instead of having a Bar Mitzvahzilla, like my son started morphing into around the time period of his Bar Mitzvah, I'll have quite the Bat Mitzvahzilla on my hands? Am I afraid I'll have to change the name of the blog? Or maybe that I'll have to start a new blog just to keep track of her varying demands (a kids' table shaped like an 'R'? Really? Her name in lights?)
Here's the real problem: I'm not sure my synagogue is going to exist in September of 2012.
There's this strange thing that happens in the Jewish community in Phoenix and, for all I know, in the Jewish communities all over this country: Sometime each summer the Jewish community goes synagogue shopping. Since synagogue dues are traditionally due before the high holidays which tend to fall in September and October, around August a synagogue fair is held to showcase new synagogues, old synagogues, and changed synagogues.
In a community like Phoenix, where there are now fifty-five synagogues and many people who don't affilitate at all, sometimes it feels like, well, synagogue shopping season. Like there just might be a newer, more exciting place elsewhere, a younger, more exciting Rabbi, or lower dues. And, of course, there are valid reasons to leave a place of worship, like fees, like the Rabbi, like for spiritual fulfillment.
But what happened during this past summer was that a lot of people left the place that we belong to, threatening its existence.
Husband and I are a little dull-witted about this kind of stuff. It's not that we're massively spiritually fulfilled by our congregation, it's just that we have a relationship with them that, after thirteen years, feels right. It feels like home. And when we're there - even if we don't understand a word of the Hebrew - it reminds us of the services we grew up with and the Judaism of our parents.
I still live with this one nightmare from soon after our move to Arizona, when I was fourteen. My dad died suddenly at age 48 of a massive heart attack and we were unconnected to the Jewish community. We had no community to lean on for support nor a Rabbi to help us or to eulogize our father. The rabbi who showed up at his funeral - was he on a rotation list for the unaffiliated? - came and went swiftly, almost forgetting my dad's name in the middle of the service. That will never happen to my children and what happened to my father will never happen to my mother. The child of fourteen is now fifty and has changed all of that.
So I guess I'd better just have a little faith and book the Bat Mitzvah date. And get ready for Bat Mitzvahzilla.
Do you tend to change your house of worship frequently, if you go to one? Do you have any clear motivating reason why you do or don't belong to one? In your religion do you have a choice about where you worship? Ever had a kid grow this quickly?