The BET BREIRA SAMU-EL OR OLOM a Jewish reform conservative congregation, was my site of religious exposure. The whole experience felt oddly intriguing in a good way. Entrance was quite easy and the regulars were all quite welcoming. At first glance, the outside of the synagogue was definitely a site that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Its design was so simple yet grand that walking up the steps made me feel like I was being a part of something bigger than myself. The attention to detail when building these things was very meticulous, both the outside and inside had intricate designs on their walls and windows. There was some odd wooden box with a slit on it to someones immediate left when stepping through the main door. My guess was that this was some sort of letter system in play between the rabbi or some other religious leader and the active members. Another thing that struck a chord with me were several murals of names which ranged anywhere from remembrance, commemoration, or tribute. These long lists had the names of several people listed along with either a date of passing, congratulations, or object of donation. Some person had the synagogues water fountain under their name! Another point of interest was a wooden angular shelf which contained what looked like a bunch of yamakas or kippah’s. I was told these were usually worn by guests, but I did not wear one.
The ritual or congregation itself was about an hour and a half and included verses from the Torah. This was done in order to observe or commemorate the sabbath or Shabbat, a day of rest and reflection. The whole ritual was led by the Rabbi as usual and a female assistant, who both sung and spoke various phrases of the Torah. The ceremony opened with both the Rabbi and his assistant singing and playing hallelujah on the guitar. Hallelujah in Hebrew means “to praise god”.I definitely was not expecting any of the singing but it was refreshing and the rabbi had one hell of a voice. Each week they observe a different part of the text this week just so happened to involve the end of the life of Moses and the decisions he had to face. The whole event was structured by observing different texts, centered around one main entry. An important one was the healing prayer “mi sheberakh” . In the Jewish tradition the saving of peoples lives is extremely important. In fact even though working during Shabbat is seen as unfavorable, Jewish doctors for example are allowed to work on Shabbat. Judaism looks favorably upon physicians and caregivers. This was actually super cool to know because of my desire to work in the medical field. Just knowing medicine is not only appreciated but commended within religion is great. In the Jewish community you pray AND go to good doctors. Prayer is seen as an aid but not the only solution. Half way through the ceremony there was a moment of silence and prayer, I closed my eyes and prayed and felt pleasantly refreshed after-wards. The ceremony ended with another acoustic rendition of hallelujah as well as the passing of bread Challah and the drinking of wine. The wine was actually concord grape juice which I found quite amusing.
Overall I would say the visit went better than expected. I had to overcome literally no obstacles to get into the synagogue and everyone their was relatively nice and willing to share their stories. In fact after speaking with the rabbi for a little while he mentioned he was a math major in college, that is pretty cool. The only gripes I had with the whole thing was my lack of understanding of anything that was going on in terms of the readings, and what I had worn. Most of the other people around me were