So, to recap my previous paper on my first site visit experience. My site of choice became the Temple Israel of Greater Miami. This jewish temple is located in Downtown Wynnwood, about 20 minutes from Florida International University; with good traffic that is. On my first trip I planned it perfectly so that when I went, it was Rosh Hashanah. For my first trip outside of my own religion (Christianity) I figured i would experience one of their highlights if you will, so that I could experience a great outpouring of sacred and holy praise. Before going, I did some research and discovered that this was one of the largest, and oldest, temples in Miami. Founded in 1922, it has been in the same location since 1928. From the pictures, I could tell that this was a very upscale and beautiful temple. I did not call ahead but out of common knowledge I dressed in nice dark jeans and a button-up just to be safe; and formal. As I arrived, I walked into a large white Temple with two large wooden doors. There was a small lobby with many people congregating, discussing things. There was also a man there handing out spare Kipa’s, the small caps that is worn by men to show respect for the Higher being. It is said that men wear these to bring them closer to the Almighty because there is always a higher power above. I respectfully accepted it, but did not put it on. I honestly did not feel comfortable enough to wear one, so I decided to hold it for the time I was there. As I walked into the large forum, large with pillars with a rounded ceiling stretched from each side of the Temple, and stained glass windows scattered the forum as well. My duration here only lasted about 30- 45 minutes, but in this time frame much praying and singing of praises occurred. At the time of the singing, I could not understand what was being said but from the bulletin I was given, the name of the song was Unetenneh Tokef. It reminded me a lot of an opera style theme with long drawn out vowels and ups and downs of the vocal sounds. The majority of the crowd was singing along peacefully. As I got home, I looked up the song Unetenneh Tokef. This song plays a large part of the holiday as it is considered the main hymnal that introduces the prayers of the congregation. I saw this as a time for the congregation to experience a time of tranquility and serenity. A time where they as a follower could connect with their God and reach a level of sacredness that activates growth and learning in their walk.
I was pleased enough with my initial visit that I decided to stay with this Temple as my Site Visit paper. As I began researching about this Synagogue, on their Website, I learned that the Temple refers to themselves as “urban”. Often stating that they have “grown up with Miami” and how active their environment is inside the Temple and that this energy flows out into the streets of their community. Their Reformist composure allows the Temple to achieve a more realistic and personal level of Judaism in todays time. We are in a time of worship and sacredness that people want something real. It is usually said that original or orthodox style services have become outdated and titled as “boring”. In my opinion, being one of the oldest Synagogues in Miami, yet making the decision to be a Reformist is a great move on their part. This favors to peoples liking which then sparks their interest in the Temple. thus increasing popularity, attendance to the services and a larger network of links and helping hands.
To describe the Temples axis Mundi, i see it as being the pulpit at the front of the room. This is where the attention was drawn to. When someone was speaking , they were at the pulpit, center stage, speaking with authority. Being at the front of the room has meaning from a psychological standpoint. This shows importance. In our brain, we see this focus point as important and it maneuvers our brain to tune into what is happening at this point. In this case, preachings, songs and praises, devotions were all being expressed here. All of which have importance. On my visit during Rosh Hashanah they sang the hymnal Unetenneh Tokef, one of the main hymns of Rosh Hashanah. An absolute beautiful piece that personally touched my heart. Although i did not recognize the words, the notion being expressed in this instance was so touching, i felt connected to the others in the room. Aside from the pulpit, the imago Mundi of the room allowed the setting of the place to become a professional setting. Stained glassed windows and large pillars lined the room giving the Temple a beautiful set up. They describe this as a Moorish-Gothic confection with tropical tile. Although there were no paintings or pictures of other humans in their history, it still gave the Temple the professionalism of that this is a place that can be used as a bridge to enlightenment and self fulfillment in their worship.
To indulge further, a prominent symbol that is common knowledge of Judaism is the Star of David. It is said that this symbol was vaguely created to emulate the cross of Christianity. Around the beginning of the 1900s the Star of David was adopted by the First Zionist Congress which is said the be the founding root of Judaism. The Star of David, also known as the Shield of David first imitated the strength of disciple David as a warrior in the walk of faith. Later, the First Zionist Congress adopted its shape to fly as its flag. Now, in the Jewish community, it still stand as their symbol of recognition. A comparison could be a nations flag, as a nation has its flag, Judaism has its Star of David.
Overall, my visits here to Temple Israel of Greater Miami was nothing less of eye-opening. My background, coming from a small town where Christianity is completely dominant, restricted me to experience things that I am not accustomed to. Where I am from, we do not have Jews, Muslims, Hindhus. There are no high-rises near. Its a slower, secluded lifestyle that is almost cut off from the fast-paced city life, like Miami. I love to travel and experience new things and this site visit project has allowed me to expand my knowledge on this world I am living in. I have always known what a Jew is. I knew their history and their story, yet never experienced it first hand. It sounds cliche but it has really opened my eyes to other religions and how similar we are in our passion yet have different views and have perceived our Gods differently. I can’t say my time at the Temple was comfortable. I was definitely out of my element, yet I felt a connect amongst the congregation and understood their displays of passion and affection for their God. I can’t say that I have one negative thing to say about my experience of my site visit. Yet I can say that I would go back any chance I got so that I could dive deeper into my learnings of this culture and religion.