Sunday, May 1, 2011

Who are your parents?

I felt like a Southerner as I was asked this again and again this weekend. That's what happens when you show up some place where your parents have long roosted.

We attended Z's Bat Mitzvah at the synagogue my parents have been affiliated with for 35 years. Z and Eldest Daughter became friends at sleep away camp and we've become friendly with Z's parents.

Z's father and his family have a long history at the synagogue, too. Re-entering the sanctuary was like being part of Alice and Wonderland; things were just a little bit odd.

The first person I noticed was the rabbi of my youth, the rabbi emeritus of this synagogue, also a guest. I remember him as soft spoken in person yet larger than life on the pulpit: passionate, political, articulate. He is now in his mid 70s.

Way back when, he was granted a lifetime contract, which is the equivalent of hitting the proverbial jackpot for a congregational rabbi. Yet apparently the price of its receipt was too much and he eventually left to pursue other rabbinic work. This resonates with me more now that I am an adult and am painfully living through the departure of our own synagogue's rabbi, a protegee of this man.

The synagogue structure has been rebuilt since my childhood. The Jewish Day School now resides on the property and there are also administration and education buildings. Really, it's a small campus. In the modern sanctuary, above the arc, is a floor-to-ceiling multi-colored stained glass window. I think it symbolizes creation although what it really says to me is BLT Sandwich. Truly, there are panels that look just like pieces of bacon.

I looked very carefully at this synagogue, wondering if it would be the right fit for our family at this juncture. I still don't know. I see the ghosts of my childhood there -- the rabbi and cantor who are long gone, the hideously wallpapered women's bathroom with the old vanity and couch that I gossiped on with my elementary and middle school friends, the uncomfortable blue pews. I can still envision the original arc with its ironwork, a decade ago replaced by a stunning, up lit etched glass version. Where do old arcs go, anyway?

So many thoughts in my mind as I drift between old and new. How do I, how do we, instill our children with a sense of our communal Jewish house of prayer when the synagogue we have chosen to raise our children in no longer exists? This keeps me awake at night.

1 comment:

Paige said...

bacon in a synagogue is not lost on me. Good thing you guys are reform and can indulge.

Even though us Mo's don't get to pick our wards and can end up in a weird-ish one, maybe it's good because we don't have to make the decision? naw, decisions are good. I do like that everyone in the same ward (area) has stewardship over each other though. It would take a lot of planning to take a meal to a person in Orinda.

I really liked a few years ago and knew I'd "made it" on my own when someone came up to my mom, said "Oh, you are PW's mom, how are you Mrs. W?" Ha ha, my mom is a Greenbomb!