Site Visit Journal

Kristian Thompson

REL 2011

Professor Londono


September 14, 2015

Site Visit Essay

I was driving down 8th street one Friday night to investigate a culture that is not only a religion, but a true way of life. Judaism is one of the oldest surviving religion that has persisted through centuries along with the likes of Christianity and Islam. Judaism quietly resided among these mega religions and hasn’t been an advocate to try to spread the word of the Torah or go out and convert pagans to Judaism to gain land or economic prosperity. I pulled in to the parking lot of Beth Tov Ahavat Shalom to join Rabbi Armon and his congregation of a few to a Shabbat service or the Sabbath. I came in the best dress clothes I had at the time almost rejected at the door begging to be admitted to the temple. Walking into the temple I was instructed to put on a Yalmulke, a head cap, to enter into to the sacred space. Once in there I met one of the members of the congregation, Robert, to get the brisk tutorial of what it means to be a Jew.

Robert began by explaining what is a Jew, he started by introducing the synagogue as a conservative Jewish school. At first thought I was given the connotation that conservative Jews were affiliated with right wing ideas or that their doctrines were held to strict standards. Robert dispelled those premonitions by letting me know there is a spectrum of Jews and conservative is  in the middle of two extremes call Orthodox and Reform Judaism which both have strict laws mostly concerning the separation of gender in order to earn a better teaching. Conservative Jews make it equal that both men and women aren’t closed away from each other both can equally participate in the service. Rabbi Armon held his service in that way the difference was that he wasn’t comfortable having women read and lead the service. Understandably, he used older ways of teaching because of the amount if years of being a Rabbi and leading through different generations of Jews. The way Robert talked about Judaism as if it was just another thing that is a part of you. He explained that Jews don’t discriminate as long as you got Judaism from your mother, or you convert into a Jew then you’re always a Jew. Compared to Christianity there is a huge guideline to being a good Christian and their message against certain people change due to hermeneutics and the passing of time. The one of the thing I valued from hearing Robert that you don’t have to jump through hoops to practice as a Jew. Going to synagogue on a regular basis is seen as an effort to become a Rabbi or you’re going through the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah  phase as a child other than that you can do as you please. Another concept I was shown was the fact the mother conveys values of Judaism on to the child as being the main survival of the religion, which is surprising because matriarchal educational development was nonexistent in ancient era. Even though, the child carried the father’s name that also included a tribe name for the child. The Jewish people are mainly tribal descendants and keep that as an ancestral keepsake to never forget where they came from. The service was soon to start as we went to the back to quietly observe the sermon.

When I entered the service the ground rules were set at no cell phones or writing during the service in observance of the Sabbath, so I could take note along with the service my depictions are mainly off of memory. As the service begun I look to be in front of a replica of the Ark of the Covenant as the centerpiece of the room and as I scanned the room huge family tablets litter the walls as it is shown lit due to the anniversary of one of the member’s death. Near the door there were little scroll like objects that each member touched prior to entrance as well. I watch the service that consisted of mainly hymns in Hebrew lead by the Elder Rabbi (Rabbi Armon), another Rabbi, and a young man, who was probably going through Bar Mitzvah. At first I was confused than as I started reading the translations I got a better understanding of the service. The service consists of a praise to Jerusalem, praise for the Sabbath, a mourner’s praise, a silent reading, and a praise for Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. The Rabbi later led with a parable about a miser and a rabbi trying to illicit kindness or donation from the miser to bail out a groom for his wedding. The reason he chose the parable is to give an extreme in the miser who was known to not even give a penny to have a phenomenal change of heart and reform for the New Year. After that there was announcements concerning the community of Beth Tov and then a celebration for the Sabbath filled with food and drinks after the service.

After leaving the service I felt that Judaism is like a secret people entailed with mystery and kindness. A religion to have its own language and is not bothered by death as being the end of life, but a beginning of celebration and commemoration of our ancestor. If religion had died today Judaism would be still standing to due to the memory the religion holds and the strength in what it really feels and means to be a Jew, the sheer power of being born with a gift. The people still welcome with open arms and knows by the end of the day the values aren’t lost in translation, but are kept on the same track of each individual that participates in these teaching. Leaving the synagogue felt like leaving the classroom having gained knowledge through pure reading instead of being taught based off how the hierarchy would translate the true document.

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