Site Visit: Temple Beth Am

When first having heard of the site visit project, I had not been as sure as to where exactly I would prefer to visit. I had in mind of visiting a Hindu temple or a Jewish synagogue, being that both Hinduism and Judaism have been religions that have fascinated me since a young age. After looking into different locations of these religions, I opted to visit Temple Beth Am, a temple located around the Pinecrest area on North Kendall Drive. Growing up as a Catholic and having attended Catholic school since the age of five, I had thought of this as a great opportunity to gain insight and learn more in regards to a different viewpoint of another religion outside of my own. I decided to attend a service held on Wednesday, September twenty-third, being that on that day the Jewish community celebrated Yom Kippur, or the “New Year.” Recognized as a High Holy Day, individuals from the Jewish community gather together at the temple to purify oneself with God as well as other individuals of the community. I was at first extremely nervous and scared to attend this service because it was something I had not really known much about, leading me to not really know what to expect. I had primarily been expecting a small temple, where not many individuals would attend. But to my surprise, I witnessed the opposite. I had inputted the address on my GPS to properly take me directly to the temple, being that my navigation skills would most probably fail me since I have the tendency of getting lost going to places I had never been before. To my success, everything went well and I was able to drive directly to the temple without any difficulties and get there in a matter of thirty minutes. When I got there, I had not been expecting several people to attend. Rather, I found myself being stuck in traffic waiting to enter the temple. The Pinecrest police had been directing traffic in front of the temple, making sure that everything was running smoothly and effectively with no difficulties. Once I was able to park, I made my way towards the building following a group of individuals who had also arrived at the same time I did. When I entered the building, I found everything to be spacious and brightly illuminated with sunlight. Before entering the service, there had been a hallway where ushers would directly point individuals towards the will call tables to obtain their tickets and sit where they had been designated to sit. However, because I was only visiting, I had approached these two women monitoring the ticket distribution at the will call table to ask them politely if I would be able to sit through the service for a religion project I had to do. They had graciously said yes and I was able to enter the service in a matter of no time. To my surprise, I found the inside of the temple to be rather large and crowded with numerous friends and families, where all rabbis and individuals in the choir were dressed in white towards the front of the temple. Everyone was well-dressed and formal, men in suits along with their Yamakah’s and Tallit’s, women in dresses and suits; I was glad I had done my research as to what to wear prior to attending. When I sat down, I noticed that each chair contained a High Holy Day Service Supplement, as well as a New Mazhor, which is considered to be their prayer book, similar to how Catholic church’s contain Bibles and prayer books in each pew. What I found to be interesting, however, is that in contrast to how a Bible is and how one is accustomed to reading a book, the New Mazhor contained the binding on the right rather than on the left and could be interpreted as reading backwards. Containing prayers and hymns, everyone would proudly sing along and recite each prayer together, where I found myself taking part in this event as well. I found the mass to be rather informative and enjoyable, being that the rabbi, Rabbi Jeremy Barras made it relatable to what one experiences on a daily basis- giving back to the community and coming together at this time to bring out the best in all individuals, learning to be satisfied with oneself and with what they have to offer so they can realize their potential and talent to share with the community. Everyone was extremely friendly as well as hospitable, allowing myself to feel more at ease as the service progressed. Another event that had really impacted me throughout my time there is that behind a small alter located at the front of the temple was an ark that contained five Torah scrolls. I had not noticed this until they had gone to open the ark to remove the Torahs and formally bless it, where later on five individuals would go around the temple holding the Torahs to make sure each individual attending the service would touch the New Mazhor to the Torah. During this time, it felt like a festivity because there had been upbeat music playing in the background as well as individuals socializing with one another, where it gave me the opportunity to speak with an elderly gentleman in regards to why they did that and learn more in depth of what Yom Kippur was. Overall this was a great experience where I not only found it to be informative to learn how the Jewish religion performed its services, but also as a way of learning more about another religion that had been of interest to me since years ago.

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