For my site visit I decided to attend a Jewish synagogue. I decided to call the synagogue in my area, Temple Beth Emet prior to my visit, to see if they could give me advice on what to wear and what to expect. They were very kind and welcoming and they answered all of my questions, they also asked me to arrive a few minutes before their Saturday morning service, which I was planning on attending, so that they could greet me and give me a tour.
Once I arrived at the temple early on Saturday morning I was kindly welcomed by the Rabbi and another member of the community. They were very energetic and welcoming the whole time, they gave me a tour of the Temple which was a beautiful building. As we walked the halls which were decorated with different symbols and writings, I was explained what each one meant and their significance. Before entering the sanctuary I was given a kippa (yarmulke) and explained how it was a sign of respect for all men to wear one. I was also shown a Tallit, which is like a robe worn by adults. I was told that I didn’t have to wear one. When we entered the Sanctuary I learned about the the different parts of the service that I was going to witness and I was explained when I should stand during the service. I was also shown the arc, the place where they kept the Torah, it was in the front and center of the sanctuary and I could tell that it was an extremely sacred part of the sanctuary.
The service its self was very interesting to witness. The whole time I felt like I was a part of the community. Even though I was raised in a Catholic family I felt something slightly familiar the whole time. The culture and the customs of the service its self maid me feel as if I was witnessing an ancient tradition being carried out. The congregation was dressed very modestly and everyone was very into their prayer and worship. There were several differences and similarities to a Catholic mass, but one of the biggest things that stood out to me was the music. The music was all carried out by one person singing and his singing was very different from the singing I usually hear from choir at a mass. Something I did find noticeably familiar were the readings during the service, just like in a Catholic mass there were readings which the congregation listened to and the reflected on. By far the thing that left the biggest impression on me was the respect and handling of the Torah, which looked beautiful and was captivating giving me a very spiritual feeling.
I really enjoyed my visit at Temple Beth Emet. The community was very open with me and very welcoming I’m really looking forward to going back and paying them another visit. I would really like to attend one of their Friday services and seeing the difference between the Saturday morning services and the Friday night services.