John Perez: Site Visit

For our site visit assignment, I chose to visit Temple Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom. This temple is a place of worship for both Reform and Conservative Jews. This was a great place to visit because I was able to attend with one of my good friend’s family, who regularly goes to services on Saturday mornings. I was a little nervous at first, as anyone would be entering a new place, especially a new place of worship different from your own. However, as I got closer to the entrance and saw all the other families entering and beginning to gather inside the temple, I was the furthest thing from nervous. I was quickly reminded of my experiences at church. As we walked in, I noticed people were standing in the first room we walked into which looked like a lobby. At the church my family and I attend, there is the same sort of lobby type entrance, and for a brief second, I forgot I was at a temple and instead at a church. Snapping back into reality, I saw there was a man close to the door, who had a table, laid out with kippahs; which is the traditional headwear for men while you are inside the temple. Even though I am not Jewish he gave me one and told me to put it on. I asked the reason for wearing the kippah and the man told me, it was necessary for men more then women to cover their head in the Jewish religion during prayer so that they can honor God, “because the divine presence is always above us”. Along with the kippah, respectable attire for the temple is normally a suit for men, and a dress for women.

The service was about to begin so someone who worked there made an announcement that everyone should start going inside to take a seat. The service took place in the next room through two huge wooden doors. The room was big, and had about fifteen rows of pews until they got to the front of the room. The pews again gave me a quick reminder of church, as well as the front of the room that had an altar where I knew every ones attention would be directed towards. The service began with the Rabbi reading prayers from the torah. In English they are called morning blessings. During the torah readings, the Rabbi would have the audience stand up for some, and sit for others; just as the Priest does during the mass at church. In the pews, were copies of the psalms the Rabbi was reading. I was able to read along just like everyone else in the audience, so I felt very involved. Some of the psalms are read in a chant or as if they are singing them, but those specific ones were done in Hebrew, so at this point I felt cut off from the service since I could not really participate but only listen. After the morning blessings, the Rabbi spoke about the torah and how to apply it to everyday life. This too is done in a Christian mass, where the Priest chooses stories from the Bible and tries to give a lesson to the audience.

After about an hour at the service, my friend’s family and I left. Overall, the experience I had at the service was enjoyable. I felt very welcome in the temple and I felt I was able to interact throughout the service. I’m looking forward to my next visit to learn more about the Jewish faith.

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