The Center of Our Jewish Community

For my site visit, I asked my friend who is a conservative Jew, if I can accompany her to her Temple and celebrate the Shabbat. The Shabbat is similar to the Catholic community meeting on Sunday for Church. We went to the Temple Kolami Emanu-el in Planation. She explained to me that the Shabbat is held on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, but personally, she only goes to the Temple on high holy days, i.e Yom Kippur and Rash Hashanah.

I felt comfortable entering the temple. Everyone welcomed me with warm expressions. The community welcomes all types of people, I noticed the Temple was filled with diversity. Since my friend accompanied me on this site visit, I felt more at ease but I was still a little nervous due to the fact I am outside my comfort zone. I was raised as a Catholic, completed all my rites of passage – baptism, communion, and confirmation. Even though I was brought up as a Catholic, I am not religious nor do I practice it. Despite being outside my comfort zone, I did not feel as awkward as I thought I would be.

When we entered the lobby area of the Temple, the men are suppose to grab a Yamaka or Kippah to wear on their head. The women can wear that as well or a piece of lace that we bobby pin to our hair. I asked my friend what the purpose of this was, she explained to me that by wearing the Kippah it is a sign of respect to God or Adonai, it puts ourselves beneath God. Once the service begun, it was very quiet and calm similar to the atmosphere of a Catholic church. During the Shabbat, there was a cantor singing the prayers. At first they spoke in Hebrew, than the Rabbi would translate in English.

At the end of the service, everyone in the congregation turn to each other and said “Shabbat Shalom”. I was hugged and greeted by strangers. In that moment I was apart of the Jewish community, even though this was my first time stepping into a Temple. What I found impressive was that after the service, everyone headed to a reception room that was in the back of the building. It was a small get-together, where we were all given Challah bread and manischewitz wine. More prayers were said during the distribution of the bread and wine.

Before that day, I did not know what to expect in the Jewish community, I kept an open mind and learned that the Jewish people are welcoming and warm. They want their temple to feel like home, their temple is their community. During my experience, I noticed a few similarities between Christianity and Judaism. At the end of service when we say “Shabbat Shalom” to our neighbors. In a Catholic Church, the priests ends the service by saying “May God be with you” and everyone responds “And also with you”. In their own way, we are just telling others to be safe, to be at peace, and to have God in your heart. My overall experience was refreshing and I enjoyed being apart of something that I am not accustomed to.

– Ashley Kolosiwsky


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