Monday, January 14, 2008

ISO Temple That Rocks

The Hippie Child (Runnin' Wild) has decided he is Jewish. This is a good thing, and I am proud of him and his decision -- even though I'm the token Christian (and pagan garden worshipper) in the family. Of course, his decision also comes with some extra work, since he has voiced a strong interest in being bar mitzvahed. As soon as he said this, I knew I needed help.

I should back up here and say that both my husband and I are personally mildly religious, but respectful of the devoutness of others. Both of us gleaned whatever religious knowledge we have through the ususal process of osmosis, of growing up in the culture of Jewishness (for my husband) and Christianness (for me). Like a lot of people, I just kind of know stuff about Jesus and St. Francis and grouchy, women-hating Benedictines. But, I digress... And beyond preparing Seder dinner every year and knowing to make a place for Elijiah, I am pretty lost in the desert when it comes the lives of the Hebrews. My husband is well versed in the nuts and bolts of Judaism, but not Hebrew or Judaism's volumes of scholarly and religious books. But he grew up immersed in the modern issues of Judaism -- the diaspora, the Holocaust, the historic and cultural history of European Jews -- and has relatives living in Israel.

So, I decided to start "test driving" temples. Thank G-d and Y-h that my friend Lisa joined up with me in this quest. For some things, it just helps to have a girlfriend in the boat with you. She is also looking for a way to give her daughter a good, yet inclusive Jewish education. Last weekend, we visited the historic 6th and I Street Synagogue in downtown Washington and took a tour of this magnificent building. Open to anyone who wishes to worship, meet, marry, or bar-bat mitzvah, this synagogue hails from Washington's oldest Hebrew congregation. It's flipped back and forth between being a temple, then a church, then a temple, yet it exudes a feeling of sanctuary and timelessness. Even my tweenish and bored son announced -- after an hour -- that this was THE place for his bar mitzvah and begged me to bring his grandparents here to enjoy this special place. This is a historic site -- and not a "working" temple -- so getting a Jewish education here isn't possible. (Still, if you have never gone there, do. It is a special place in Washington.)

So, on we went on our search. This past weekend, we tried out an interfaith Jewish-Christian group that meets in a local high school. I thought it sounded right up our mixed family alley. The congregation was warm and exuded charitable sensibilities and thoughfulness. Yet, as I sat there listening to them sing "We Shall Overcome" in honor the upcoming King holiday, I couldn't help myself from looking around for some candles, a stained glass window, maybe even a whiff of incense. I realized how much I needed the pomp and circumstance of organized religion, the music, the decoration, the special effects of spirtuality. Surprisingly, my son missed them too. "How come we didn't just go to 6th and I?" he moaned back in the car. He was also a bit nonplussed about who the Essenes and Pharases were and just what they all had to do with Jesus. I wondered too. Maybe so early on in life, what with dealing with puberty and all, this mixing of liturgy might be a bit too much for a kid.

So, this Monday morning, we are back to square one, even if we know more than we did before. Where do we fit in? Will the third try be a charm? And if I'm the one who thinks Hebrew is so neat, as my son says, maybe it really should be me taking the classes?

Stay week we're going reformed.

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