Home is where the aron ha-kodesh is
Temple Beth Or
“Hunter, I’m going to a new synagogue tonight, you’re welcome to join me or hang at home.” It was the day before my then 11-year-old’s birthday, so I figured I’d give him a break from accompanying me on the job.
“I think I’ll come along. How often do you get an opportunity for an experience like this?”
Hmm. He really said that. His mom must be doing something right.
I’d been hearing scattered discussion about the new synagogue in town for a few weeks, so I was pleased to hear from its secretary, Diane Black. She invited me to the first Friday of the month Shabbat service, and when I accepted, Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer also welcomed me. The service was held at 5:55 p.m. at Beyer’s home, 2580 Cityview Terrace, which is sort of above and behind that Home Depot and Petco over on Northtowne. A dairy potluck followed the service.
Now, this was only my third Jewish service, and since large parts of the service are in Hebrew, I’m pretty mystified by what goes on. Still, Rabbi Beyer is very good about giving short explanations of what’s happening and our placement in the siddur (prayer book). This prayer book is read back to front, right page to left. The service is fast paced, so I didn’t have time for much analysis of the prayerbook, but I think most everything is printed in Hebrew and English.
The room where the service was held has eggshell white walls and a stone floor. It’s filled with light from the large windows which open on a deck that overlooks Reno and Sparks. There were maybe 40 folding chairs, and 20-25 worshippers. At the front right were a guitar player and a clarinet player. Rabbi Beyer also played a few small percussive instruments as she led the singing.
The rabbi has an utterly beautiful voice, and her singing absolutely made the evening for me. Again, since I don’t understand much of what’s going on, it’s easy to drift off, but she’d start singing, and I’d come back to Earth. Anyway, this particular service also honored Rob Lowe and Shawn Welton’s last Shabbat before they were to marry. They performed in a ceremony called Ufruf, in which they both read from the Torah. When they were finished, we all threw Tootsie Rolls at them, which represent the showering of blessings upon the couple.
The congregation was pretty informal, people dressed pretty casually, from blue jeans and shorts to dressier attire. There was also a variety of ages represented, kids through seniors with the mode probably in the 40s. This is an active group, singing and interacting with gusto. Hunter and I felt totally comfortable, and since we weren’t the only non-members, I’d say this is a pretty good place for people who’d like to experience a Jewish service without feeling too out of place.
That’s not to say there weren’t moments when we weren’t quite sure what to do. When the Torah was brought out, it was carried through the aisles, and people kissed their prayer book and then touched it to the scroll. We were in the second row, so we didn’t really know how to behave. But it was fine.
The service ended with a ritual handwashing—claiming ignorance again—I’m not sure this wasn’t just because of the potluck to follow. We didn’t stay for dinner, although we’d be made welcome. Still, an hour and 20 minutes of religious service is plenty of new experience for a soon-to-be 12 year old, and Hunter was ready to get home.MUSIC