Monday, September 20, 2010

Yom Kippur 2010/5771

By Susan Esther Barnes

Blogger Dov Bear posted a recap of five different kinds of Kol Nidre (Yom Kippur Eve) services he has attended in the past, and invited others to write about their Kol Nidre experiences. I wrote about one of my experiences from previous years (since it was not yet Kol Nidre this year).

Then he posted about his most recent Yom Kippur experience, and several of us posted about ours.

My previous post was about my Kol Nidre experience this year. Below is my Yom Kippur experience, somewhat modified from what I posted on Dov Bear’s blog.

9:30 am: Services start at both the synagogue and the local Civic Center auditorium, since our congregation is way too large to fit into the synagogue all at once. I choose to attend the synagogue service, which is mostly run by lay people (Senior Rabbi and Cantor, with choir, are at the auditorium).

I greet people at the front door until I can’t see anyone else approaching from the parking areas. I walk in and find a seat, but Marc comes over to get me, saying he and his wife have saved a seat for me. This is so cool. Usually I don’t like to sit alone for services, but sometimes it’s hard to find a spot next to someone else who’s sitting alone when I come in late from greeting.

Morning service is incredibly moving. Many of us are crying by the end. Highlights include confessions written anonymously by congregants, and beautiful music. Service is over around 12:30.

From 12:30 to 1:30 I greet those coming to children's services, and direct them regarding where to go with kids under 7 vs. where to go with kids 7 and over. There is a worker from the JCC who is standing nearby drinking a soda, which I find a bit rude since the rest of us are fasting, but I assume he's not Jewish and probably has no idea.

Frankly, I’m not being the world’s best greeter, because I’m still emotional from the morning service, and Donna comes over, notices, and doesn’t let me get away with “I’m fine.” What a mensch! So I get a chance to talk again about Rose, and how it’s hard being at the first Yom Kippur without her. On a regular Shabbat some part of my mind can pretend she just didn’t make it to synagogue this week, but on Yom Kippur it’s obvious she is missing, and I am missing her.

Around 2 I head over to the Civic Center for the 2:30 discussion with Rabbi Kahn. There are good number of people there. As his topic he chooses the Park 51 project. I am deeply disappointed by the number of congregants who speak out against the project, or who feel conflicted about it. It seems so clear to me that it’s wrong to say a whole religion should be banned from building something near where a handful of extremists did something horrible.

I gather from Rabbi Kahn’s remarks that he'd say I feel this way because I identify myself as a member of a minority group, which I do. I find it unfathomable that we don’t all, as Jews, recognize that we are a minority group, and that we need to stand up for the rights of other minority groups. I know it doesn’t help that there are Muslims who are virulently anti-semetic, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to be Islamophobic. This discussion does not contribute to the feelings of Sabbath peace and wholeness I want to experience on Shabbat.

I leave early and walk back to the synagogue for Yizkor at 3:30. Another Yizkor service is also happening at the Civic Center at the same time. I’m a bit disappointed that the service is not more participatory. One congregant reads aloud what was probably a lovely bit of prose, but in several places it mentions food, and I’m distracted. The fast has been easy for me so far, but I still don’t want to be reminded about food.

The synagogue service ends a little early so we can all walk together over to the Civic Center for N'eila and Havdalah. The plan was for all of us to walk into the Civic Center singing together, but somehow that didn’t pan out. I find a seat on the right side in the front section, and sit next to a couple of congregants I see on a regular basis.

I enjoy the service, until near the very end, when the rabbis read a long selection in English. I don’t remember them doing that before. We’re all standing up, my feet hurt, I’m starting to get a headache, and I find myself wanting them to just move along already. I don’t feel hungry, but I’m certainly getting grumpy. Dan Nichols makes up for it by singing, “May I Suggest,” and I sing along with him.

Immediately after Havdalah we have the break-the-fast. I don't get in line for food. Instead, I head to the doors and direct people to where the tables and chairs are outside where they can sit and eat. It's still light outside. I continue to direct people and chat until the sun goes down.

I call my husband, and he meets me at a local Mexican restaurant. This is our tradition because I love Mexican food, plus they give you a bowl of chips and salsa right when you sit down, so you don't have to wait to eat something. I indulge myself by ordering the nachos for dinner (no meat of course).

Sunday morning I get up early and go to the synagogue to help build the large sukkah in the back and the small sukkah in the front. I enjoy hanging out with the guys. This year, as last year, I am the only woman there. I think the guys are starting to catch on that they don’t need to treat me differently just because I’m female. At least I hope they are.

Once again, I’m reminded how much I love this community, and how much I feel I belong here.

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