Knit ‘n’ Daven
Yesterday was Yom Kippur – a double whammy as it was also Shabbat – which means the dance mix of services (very long, but with a good beat…)
We don’t belong to a temple out here in NJ anymore – the one we belonged to didn’t seem able to accept the fact that their membership dues were too rich for our income. Every 3 months another bill would arrive from the temple, even though we’d stopped going because it felt awkward that we couldn’t pay our fair share.
We had filled out the paperwork for ‘special needs’ – but it took 6 months for them to acknowledge that we’d applied – and another 3 months to tell us that we still owed $600/year and would have to reapply each year. In the mean time the bills kept coming and they tacked on a building fee of $1,200 – so we were a little out of our league again.
In Brooklyn, where we lived when we were first married and where I was first introduced to the kind of liberal and open minded Reform Judaism that seemed to dovetail so beautifully with my own Methodist upbringing, we were members of Kolot Chayeinu, which only had about 30 members when we went to our first High Holy Day services with them in 1993. This is a very special congregation, and I wish that we could still go each week, or find a shul with the same liberal, loving feeling out here in New Jersey – one that wouldn’t insist we pay money we don’t have to be members of the religious community.
Back to KC this year for Yom Kippur – back to seeing faces we hadn’t seen in years, showing off the kids and celebrating the closing of the gates. Because the kids were a bit restless, we went up to a mezzanine area off of the main sanctuary (the services were held in a Church of Christ – how great is that!?) where we wouldn’t bother other worshipers with our noisy children.
There’s an admonishment against working “more than 3 stitches” on Shabbat, which has always made me feel so sad for observant knitters. Sad because while the men are downstairs davening (Yiddish for praying) how lovely it would be if the women could quietly say their own prayers as they knit away. In my own family I got in trouble several times for sewing on a Sunday so I understand the feeling of constraint – and promised that I would never isolate and sanctify (kasher) a day by prohibiting something that is so lovely as creating fabric.
So there sat Methodist I in a church-cum-synagogue, with my Jewish husband and Jewish children (if one accepts the Reform view of patrilinear descent), celebrating the closing of the book for another year and finding great peace in my yarn and stitches. It’s hard to tell who’s relatives were spinning faster in their graves. Or maybe they’re all happy about this mixing…? Spinning shouldn’t be a bad thing –
We arrived in time for me to write my mother and brother’s name for the Yizkor service – where those who have died in the last year (5765) are remembered. My mother and brother both died in the period of the last Jewish year, and I felt a sense of closure as their names were read that I hadn’t felt all year. My kids were on my lap, my husband was hugging me, and I was finishing a little crocheted bag I’ll give to Hannah for her birthday on Sunday.
The music at the service was so lovely – sung beautifully by the congregation’s de facto female cantor – harmonized by all of the women who’d memorized Debbie Friedman records at summer camp – and me. It was lovely to wrap my arms around my children as we sang the Aveinu Malkeinu, all of us swaying up in the darkened balcony. Then the end of the service, me still crocheting automatically to the rhythm of the prayer, all of us thrilled to hear the shofar.
I thought of how many parts of that sacred moment would be considered heresy to an orthodox Jew, and how sad that we find so many ways to divide ourselves. I guess Kosher means Separate for a reason…