As I talked to friends over dinner recently, I commented the fact that I had my religion project to get done soon and the Jewish religion. My good friend Menelaus jumped immediately after he heard the word “Jewish” and offered to help me with anything I needed. That is how I found out about that “weird, brown, elegant building” close to my apartment, which now I found out is a Jewish Center. The Rok Family Shul is a Jewish center with plenty of services for Jews in the community. Apparently, “a Jewish center in the area of Brickell and Downtown was much needed,” as Eli Samberg told me.
Eli is a member of the Shul and a worker there. When I went to the center to request information, he was the one who helped me. We are currently on the highest Jewish holydays, so I could not see much of the center. However, Eli was of great help and gave me interesting information about the Jewish Religion and the center.
At first, I was very nervous because I am Catholic and I was not sure they were going to like that. A friend of mine who chose to do the same thing for her project was negated the request to a synagogue or get some information at all. But, I later on saw that it was not an obstacle because Mr. Samberg was very nice to me. He first thanked me for wearing appropriate apparel and not “trashy clothes like many other girls” as he said.
By talking to him I discovered that the Shul is not just a place to go pray. It is really a very complete center with various services. They range from organizing all types of events to recruit the Jewish community of the area, to their Preschool of the Arts, and to a One on One study program for Jewish subjects. This made me see how involved Jews are with their religion, which was surprisingly very pleasing. Regardless of what religion they pertain to, I admire those who have strong religious basis and act upon them. I see it as strength in that person.
After giving me general information about the Shul, Mr. Samberg continued to give me a quick insight of the Jewish religion. I already knew some information, such as the fact that women are supposed to wear a skirt that goes below their knees and long sleeve shirt, and all men wear Kippas. What I did not know was that women wear these types of clothing because they gain great spiritual heights thanks to this, and that there currently is a debate within the Jews regarding whether or not it should be mandatory to wear Kippas outside of synagogues.
Furthermore, I discovered that while families are united in their synagogues to pray, men and women are divided. Just in the same way Latin American teenage girls are considered women once they turn fifteen, Jewish girls are considered women once they turn twelve and to their bat mitzvah, while boys are considered men once they turn thirteen and do their bar mitzvah. Women are to fill the roles of making meals and lighting candles, and only women are allowed to make blessings on the candles.
Overall, the experience was very pleasing. My nerves disappeared as I talked to Mr. Samberg thanks to him being so generous with his time. I agreed with him to go back and actually see more of the center once the holidays are over, and hopefully I will get to meet more Jews and see them practicing their religion.