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JBG





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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 11:07 pm    Post subject: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

I have no idea if this is the right kind of post to be making here, or if "ban" fodder.

My religious education started, in Scarsdale, New York, during Academic 1967-1968 (Jewish Year 5728) with a lovely Hebrew School teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a very good Sunday school teacher for the religious component of my Jewish education. That year I developed a genuine interest in both the religion and learning Hebrew. This was in preparation for what became my May 2, 1970 Bar Mitzvah.

Thereafter, each year the instruction deteriorated. By my Bar Mitzvah year, Academic 1969-70 (Jewish Year 5730) spitballs were flying around regularly in the religious school class. People were mimicking the thick Israeli accent of the Hebrew School teacher. Myattitude became, essentially, that if the teachers and administration of the Temple didn't care about my Jewish education, neither did I. I cleaned out desk on May 4, 1970, never to return to religious school. To be fair to the Temple, this was the 1960's, the era of "do your own thing."

Two things, neither spiritual, brought me back into the fold. The first, by itself, wouldn't have made a difference. I was 15 at the time. During late October 1972, I met someone at my high school weather club for the first time who I now consider my closest friend, who had a decidedly gentile last name. Let's call him "Jim Smith" (not his real last name). I was telling one of the typical bad "there was a lawyer, a rabbi and a priest" jokes. Mr. Smith interjected immediately "you're Jewish, aren't you? Don't you have pride in that?" Shamefully I conceded he was right. I didn't think we were going to be friends since he was wearing a "Nixon and Agnew in '72" button. I was a member of Students for McGovern. The second thing was more significant. My father, a decided agnostic, was rapidly sickening and dieing that fall. I do note that despite my father's agnosticism, we both walked to Temple on Yom Kippur 1972, about a one-mile walk. I think he knew that it was his last.

On January 4, 1973, knowing that death was imminent, my mother and I had a long session with our Rabbi to go over the eulogy. He explained much about the Jewish approach to death and post-death, an approach that has a lot to recommend it. he died peacefully early the next morning, January 5, 1973. That renewal of instruction in Judaism, on a serious basis and without the spitballs, really piqued my interest.

After his death, I realized that many of my childhood friends had little to offer. Compared to other high school students arriving from elsewhere in the District they were quite immature. Thus, the story returns to Jim Smith, and other similar friends I made through the Weather Club, the student newspaper and the high school band, which I had joined in September 1972. I pretty much reshuffled my deck as to who my friends were after receiving condolensce notes that were barely written in English from my grade-school friends. And this in an affluent Jewish school district in suburban New York. That spring, I attended, on my own and without my mother the Temple's communal Seder. The next fall, for the first time, I fasted on Yom Kippur.

Fast forward first to last winter. Jim Smith's father died, and I was in attendance at the Shiva. Yesterday morning, his mother passed away.

Again, fast forward to today, when I was honoring my father's Yart-site (sp). When I was at the Temple's Torah study group's minion (yes, the same Temple I grew up in) they asked for names of people we were honoring by the Kaddish, whether for Schloshim, or Yart-site (sp). Before reciting my father's name, I mentioned that a close friend's mother had passed on but was yet unburied. I mentioned my understanding that Kaddish not be read for that person. The Rabbi confirmed it, whereupon I uttered my father's name.

After study group, I shared my experiences both with someone I knew from high school band that spring of 1973, and someone I just met this morning. The consensus was that this generation that is in it's middle-age now is a fair bit more religious than the prior generation. I think it's a good sign for the vitality of the religion. Almost weekly adult Torah study has replaced spitballs. Back in the day, there was no adult Torah study. Even better, many of my sons' peers actually care about Judaism.
don muntean





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:31 am    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
I have no idea if this is the right kind of post to be making here, or if "ban" fodder.

My religious education started, in Scarsdale, New York, during Academic 1967-1968 (Jewish Year 5728) with a lovely Hebrew School teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a very good Sunday school teacher for the religious component of my Jewish education. That year I developed a genuine interest in both the religion and learning Hebrew. This was in preparation for what became my May 2, 1970 Bar Mitzvah.

Thereafter, each year the instruction deteriorated. By my Bar Mitzvah year, Academic 1969-70 (Jewish Year 5730) spitballs were flying around regularly in the religious school class. People were mimicking the thick Israeli accent of the Hebrew School teacher. Myattitude became, essentially, that if the teachers and administration of the Temple didn't care about my Jewish education, neither did I. I cleaned out desk on May 4, 1970, never to return to religious school. To be fair to the Temple, this was the 1960's, the era of "do your own thing."

Two things, neither spiritual, brought me back into the fold. The first, by itself, wouldn't have made a difference. I was 15 at the time. During late October 1972, I met someone at my high school weather club for the first time who I now consider my closest friend, who had a decidedly gentile last name. Let's call him "Jim Smith" (not his real last name). I was telling one of the typical bad "there was a lawyer, a rabbi and a priest" jokes. Mr. Smith interjected immediately "you're Jewish, aren't you? Don't you have pride in that?" Shamefully I conceded he was right. I didn't think we were going to be friends since he was wearing a "Nixon and Agnew in '72" button. I was a member of Students for McGovern. The second thing was more significant. My father, a decided agnostic, was rapidly sickening and dieing that fall. I do note that despite my father's agnosticism, we both walked to Temple on Yom Kippur 1972, about a one-mile walk. I think he knew that it was his last.

On January 4, 1973, knowing that death was imminent, my mother and I had a long session with our Rabbi to go over the eulogy. He explained much about the Jewish approach to death and post-death, an approach that has a lot to recommend it. he died peacefully early the next morning, January 5, 1973. That renewal of instruction in Judaism, on a serious basis and without the spitballs, really piqued my interest.

After his death, I realized that many of my childhood friends had little to offer. Compared to other high school students arriving from elsewhere in the District they were quite immature. Thus, the story returns to Jim Smith, and other similar friends I made through the Weather Club, the student newspaper and the high school band, which I had joined in September 1972. I pretty much reshuffled my deck as to who my friends were after receiving condolensce notes that were barely written in English from my grade-school friends. And this in an affluent Jewish school district in suburban New York. That spring, I attended, on my own and without my mother the Temple's communal Seder. The next fall, for the first time, I fasted on Yom Kippur.

Fast forward first to last winter. Jim Smith's father died, and I was in attendance at the Shiva. Yesterday morning, his mother passed away.

Again, fast forward to today, when I was honoring my father's Yart-site (sp). When I was at the Temple's Torah study group's minion (yes, the same Temple I grew up in) they asked for names of people we were honoring by the Kaddish, whether for Schloshim, or Yart-site (sp). Before reciting my father's name, I mentioned that a close friend's mother had passed on but was yet unburied. I mentioned my understanding that Kaddish not be read for that person. The Rabbi confirmed it, whereupon I uttered my father's name.

After study group, I shared my experiences both with someone I knew from high school band that spring of 1973, and someone I just met this morning. The consensus was that this generation that is in it's middle-age now is a fair bit more religious than the prior generation. I think it's a good sign for the vitality of the religion. Almost weekly adult Torah study has replaced spitballs. Back in the day, there was no adult Torah study. Even better, many of my sons' peers actually care about Judaism.


I liked reading this...thanks for posting it. You're so right - paths untrod in youth can become the roads back home one day!
JBG





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:14 am    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

don muntean wrote:
I liked reading this...thanks for posting it. You're so right - paths untrod in youth can become the roads back home one day!
You are welcome.

There's another thread that I posted on that theme that Mac and I went back and forth for a while on but "Search" is not finding it. I'm going to keep looking.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:15 am    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
The consensus was that this generation that is in it's middle-age now is a fair bit more religious than the prior generation. I think it's a good sign for the vitality of the religion. Almost weekly adult Torah study has replaced spitballs. Back in the day, there was no adult Torah study. Even better, many of my sons' peers actually care about Judaism.


I am feeling the draw, back to church, myself. I'm older than you, but the attraction isn't promises of everlasting life. I am reconciled to death, and I these stories make me feel like I'm indulging a fool just by listening.

I don't know what it is, but when I go to Church, it seems an impersonal, mechanical kind of thing. Hollow. First of all, the place is empty. There's something that's been removed, along with the 'modernization'. Enthusiasm, perhaps? An appreciation of joy? People mouth the words of prayers that have to read, in a drone. It all seems like a charade, being carried on to deceive the faithful, while arrangements are made to convert the building to a condo.
JBG





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 6:45 pm    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:

I am feeling the draw, back to church, myself. I'm older than you, but the attraction isn't promises of everlasting life. I am reconciled to death, and I these stories make me feel like I'm indulging a fool just by listening.
In my religion, though Numbers and some of the prophets refer to an afterlife that's really not the focus. The assumption is that when it's over it's over.

Bugs wrote:
I don't know what it is, but when I go to Church, it seems an impersonal, mechanical kind of thing. Hollow. First of all, the place is empty. There's something that's been removed, along with the 'modernization'. Enthusiasm, perhaps? An appreciation of joy? People mouth the words of prayers that have to read, in a drone. It all seems like a charade, being carried on to deceive the faithful, while arrangements are made to convert the building to a condo.
Interesting.

That may be part of why both of the synagogues I belong to have converted their Saturday morning Shabbat service, at least in part, into a Torah study session (the "service" parts are still done) and the full-blown, lengthy "service" is usually done only for B'Nai Mitzvah ceremonies, and on Friday night.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:11 pm    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
That may be part of why both of the synagogues I belong to have converted their Saturday morning Shabbat service, at least in part, into a Torah study session (the "service" parts are still done) and the full-blown, lengthy "service" is usually done only for B'Nai Mitzvah ceremonies, and on Friday night.


The music used to be a big part of the service, as I recall. The service starts as a kind of lavish praise for God, and obsequious flattery ... it moves into beseeching God to forgive his miserable sinners. At different points, the congregation responds to the priest incantations, usually standing. Periodically, they go to their knees, while a prayer is addressed to the Almighty, after which the congregation would stand, and bellow a steady drumbeat of an ancient hymn ... to settle into another cycle ...

Not now. Now, they have macrame on the walls of little tacky buildings, the chapel itself as a kind of A-frame over a basketball court. Christian morality has been replaced with situation ethics, so called. I'm not big into all of this, but the real point is that they are no longer places that represent the universal standards. They're places that feel they have to lead their congregation into a greater tolerance and acceptance of weird sexuality, for example. That's the most jarring, in context, but they push the whole agenda of the welfare state. The biggest sin is now bigotry, and moderators of the United Church publicly doubt the divinity of Jesus, or if he rose from the dead.

I mean, seriously ... how can you respect a religion like this?

There aren't hot-button issues for me, but it is no wonder that the growth area in Christianity is with the evangelicals.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:12 pm    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
That may be part of why both of the synagogues I belong to have converted their Saturday morning Shabbat service, at least in part, into a Torah study session (the "service" parts are still done) and the full-blown, lengthy "service" is usually done only for B'Nai Mitzvah ceremonies, and on Friday night.


The music used to be a big part of the service, as I recall. The service starts as a kind of lavish praise for God, and obsequious flattery ... it moves into beseeching God to forgive his miserable sinners. At different points, the congregation responds to the priest incantations, usually standing. Periodically, they go to their knees, while a prayer is addressed to the Almighty, after which the congregation would stand, and bellow a steady drumbeat of an ancient hymn ... to settle into another cycle ...

Not now. Now, they have macrame on the walls of little tacky buildings, the chapel itself as a kind of A-frame over a basketball court. Christian morality has been replaced with situation ethics, so called. I'm not big into all of this, but the real point is that they are no longer places that represent the universal standards. They're places that feel they have to lead their congregation into a greater tolerance and acceptance of weird sexuality, for example. That's the most jarring, in context, but they push the whole agenda of the welfare state. The biggest sin is now bigotry, and moderators of the United Church publicly doubt the divinity of Jesus, or if he rose from the dead.

I mean, seriously ... how can you respect a religion like this?

There aren't hot-button issues for me, but it is no wonder that the growth area in Christianity is with the evangelicals.
mrsocko





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Props toJBG. I have often been left shaking my head when talking about spirituality with people I knew in high school. The farthest they have thought on spritual issues is usually "well I believe that" and then they spought some bullshit based on Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I then aks them if they are staring their own religion and they look at me strange.

Having a belief system based on nothing but your pop interests is like Rock without a blues base. Rolling Stones>Journey :P

You can't get any deeper spiritually than Judaism. Must be an amazing study group.

My Christian walk shares a common past and I respect Judaism immensely 8)
JBG





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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:

The music used to be a big part of the service, as I recall. The service starts as a kind of lavish praise for God, and obsequious flattery ... it moves into beseeching God to forgive his miserable sinners. At different points, the congregation responds to the priest incantations, usually standing. Periodically, they go to their knees, while a prayer is addressed to the Almighty, after which the congregation would stand, and bellow a steady drumbeat of an ancient hymn ... to settle into another cycle ...
I am assuming you're referring to Christian and not Jewish services as only Reform (and maybe some Conservative) temples allow instrumental music. That particular worship cycle does not describe Jewish services.

Jewish services start with certain introductory prayers (and at sundown starting an observance a candle-lighting and opening prayer). Those are followed by a few prayers standard for all services, the "Bor-chu", "Sh'ma" (Deuteronomy 68:4) and after a few that escape me the "Mi Chomocha" or "Song at the Sea", sung my Miriam and the Hebrews after passing through the Red Sea, the pursuing Egyptians safely attempting to swim. This "Song at the Sea" was my older son's Bar Mitzvah portion last February 7. After a Torah reading (which in Torah study is flipped to first or last 90 minutes) there is an "Aleynu" expressing adoration of G-d, a Mourner's Kaddish honoring the dead, and then a concluding hymn, chosen by one or more families from a selection.

Bugs wrote:
Not now. Now, they have macrame on the walls of little tacky buildings, the chapel itself as a kind of A-frame over a basketball court. Christian morality has been replaced with situation ethics, so called. I'm not big into all of this, but the real point is that they are no longer places that represent the universal standards. They're places that feel they have to lead their congregation into a greater tolerance and acceptance of weird sexuality, for example. That's the most jarring, in context, but they push the whole agenda of the welfare state. The biggest sin is now bigotry, and moderators of the United Church publicly doubt the divinity of Jesus, or if he rose from the dead.
mrsocko wrote:

I have often been left shaking my head when talking about spirituality with people I knew in high school. The farthest they have thought on spritual issues is usually "well I believe that" and then they spought some bullshit based on Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I then aks them if they are staring their own religion and they look at me strange.

Having a belief system based on nothing but your pop interests is like Rock without a blues base. Rolling Stones>Journey :P
We have "political correctness" problems too, trust me.
Bugs wrote:

I mean, seriously ... how can you respect a religion like this?
WIth great difficulty. However, I do point out that Reform Judaism has moved from that kind of observance to rather close to Conservative Judaism. One should maintain affiliation and involvement to reverse that pernicious trend.
mrsocko wrote:
Props toJBG.
I don't know that expression but I assume it's a compliment.
mrsocko wrote:
You can't get any deeper spiritually than Judaism. Must be an amazing study group.

My Christian walk shares a common past and I respect Judaism immensely 8)
I appreciate the compliment. In the interest of full disclosure I must state that Judaism is not particularly spiritual. In fact many Christians find it somewhat dry spiritually. Judaism is at bottom a pragmatic religion; not much focus on afterlife, strong focus on study and other utilitarian endeavors.

Again, both of you, thanks for your kind words. I just think "philo-Semitism" can override a good but imperfect reality.
JBG





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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:21 am    Post subject: Re: My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
There's another thread that I posted on that theme that Mac and I went back and forth for a while on but "Search" is not finding it. I'm going to keep looking.
I found the thread that Mac and I went back and forth on (link). This is one of the more relevant posts to this thread:


JBG on earlier thread wrote:

ANOTHER UPDATE, and CORRECTION:

Yet another Sh'va call, this time Jim's father died. I was, again, apparently the only one from our home town of Scarsdale that he asked to attend. At a Sh'va call, memories of the dead person are recalled and discussed. I had many memories of Jim's father, including, in particular the fact that I "ape" his briefing style when I do legal writing.

My memory was jarred, and I now remember that it was after my father's death in January 1973 that I decided I needed to retool my list of friends. The problem was that many of them had the maturity level, at best, of Grade 7 students, and we were in Grad 10. The condolensce notes from the "old" group of friends were scribbled, often illegible, and written in barely grammatical English. It was almost "Internet-speak" 1973 style.

Still, it is amazing that one can be far closer friends with people some 33 years after the event that brought you together, high school, was over and done with, and life since has taken us to different countries and continents.
Mac





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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My family's heritage was Presbyterian and we attended a dour and intolerant country church where the population of farmers and fishermen looked down their noses at each other. Self-righteousness trumped piety.

I've had very few positive influences when it comes to religious life. I feel strongly that there is a G-d but I have found very little evidence of anything divine in most churches. I've never been in a synagogue (or a mosque for that matter) so I don't know whether things are better therein.

-Mac
Bugs





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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac wrote:
My family's heritage was Presbyterian and we attended a dour and intolerant country church where the population of farmers and fishermen looked down their noses at each other. Self-righteousness trumped piety.

I've had very few positive influences when it comes to religious life. I feel strongly that there is a G-d but I have found very little evidence of anything divine in most churches. I've never been in a synagogue (or a mosque for that matter) so I don't know whether things are better therein.

-Mac


I think this is a common experience. One of the reasons we don't have those feelings anymore, and feel very smug about that, is that we don't realize what an important part churches played in community life in Victorian times.

In those times, the parish was an institution that handled a lot of the things that are done by the state. A congregation tried, so far as it could, to provide its children with education and in the care of the sick. They acted as employment agencies, and more. The people in the better parishes -- from the point of view of 'benefits' -- often were at pains not to be socially inviting of dead-beats into their congregations.

The experience of the Toronto Jewish community is interesting in this context. There were German Jews in Toronto very early, but these people assimilated. The roots of the present community arrived in big waves in the first decade of the 20th century. Lots of them. One of the things they were inflicted with was the charity of Christian groups -- the Methodist Organizing Committee, and the YMCA were only two of the more aggressive. The Jews came in large groups, and with money, and they soon were settling in an area around Kensington that was, at times, like a European ghetto. It wasn't long after 1910 than there was a Jewish alderman on city council.

Later, a committee of the Anglo-Celt elite put up about half the money of the first real synagogue, with a burial ground, Holy Blossom. I don't think it was because they saw these Jews from Eastern Europe as social equals, but simply they quickly understood that Jews worked hard and paid their bills, and so -- they were welcome. You know the old saw about giving a man a fish, or showing him how to fish? I think it was like that ... they knew the Jews could take care of themselves like all the other congregations did.

Today, all these functions have been absorbed by the state, and what's left of the old line congregations is pathetic.
JBG





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:
Later, a committee of the Anglo-Celt elite put up about half the money of the first real synagogue, with a burial ground, Holy Blossom.

***********

Today, all these functions have been absorbed by the state, and what's left of the old line congregations is pathetic.
Great story. Never knew that.

But Holy Blossom is, from what I can tell from New York, hardly pathetic. It's Rabbi, Plaut, supplied the commentary that almost all Reform congregations use for the Torah.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JBG wrote:
Bugs wrote:
Later, a committee of the Anglo-Celt elite put up about half the money of the first real synagogue, with a burial ground, Holy Blossom.

***********

Today, all these functions have been absorbed by the state, and what's left of the old line congregations is pathetic.
Great story. Never knew that.

But Holy Blossom is, from what I can tell from New York, hardly pathetic. It's Rabbi, Plaut, supplied the commentary that almost all Reform congregations use for the Torah.


Sorry, I am writing from a Toronto-centric point of view. I never meant to imply that Holy Blossom was the least bit pathetic. Quite the opposite. Rabbi Gunter Plaut was, in the past, a respected local figure.
Mac





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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:
I think this is a common experience. One of the reasons we don't have those feelings anymore, and feel very smug about that, is that we don't realize what an important part churches played in community life in Victorian times.

True enough. I'm not sure the public system does a better job than the churches did in their day but that's a subject for another thread.

A defining moment for me came when I was 13 or so. My mother was the leader/organizer for the Sunday School program. Under her tutelage, the number of participants was growing which was unusual back the 70s. Not all of the parents stayed for church services but that's about par.

At the end of the church service, after helping clean up, I found my mother standing with tears running down her face as one of the oldest of the elders berated her for bringing the "wrong sort of people" into the church. I took my mother's elbow and led her away but not before telling the old asshole that he should be ashamed of himself.

Apparently, I didn't endear myself to him as shortly after I moved out of the area, he proposed that my name be removed from the church's membership records. The vote went in my favour, I'm told.

-Mac
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My Return to Judaism - 37 Years Ago and Now

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