I went to my coworkers’ daughter’s Bat Mitzvah a few weeks ago. I was one of three people from his work that was invited, so I made a special effort to attend. Five minutes in, I knew that this was going to be a loooooong Shabbat morning service. It was so Reform-y that I think it was a shock to my system. And deep, resounding, confirmation: oh yeeaaaaaaah, this is why I left years ago and never looked back.*
Many years ago, when I was still a young padawan, I went to a Reform synagogue. They were the ONLY national (liberal Jewish) organization at the time with a thorough website section devoted to conversion. They had outreach programming, they had classes, they, on the national level, looked like they actually gave a poo about us. (10 years later and despite the wonderful website overhaul, Conservative Judaism still looks like they could care less about us while they eagerly attempt to court every independent minyan, excuse me, I mean kehilla.. It’s attrocious.)
Feeling so welcomed into their communities, I was a happy camper. For every Shabbat in a 5-month period in Texas, for a whole school year in NY, for the better part of a year in the East Bay, it worked out okay for me for a while.
But three or four years in, I realized I was unhappy. I realized that I wasn’t happy there, not so much that I wasn’t happy with Judaism. So I bravely went to the scary Conservatives! You know, those crazy people that didn’t even marry GLBT couples at the time.
And holy Moshe, talk about a difference. I’ve loved every single dingle service since.
I do not like organs or choirs or cantors. I do not like Friedman-esque singing/clapping permeating the services as though we’re at summer camp singing kumbaya. I do not like rabbis dressed to look like Protestant denominations with a thin stole-like tallit around a black robe. I do not like an oneg with dairy and meat out at the same time. I do not like 5 minute long introductory explanations of each part of the service before singing only the first two lines of that portion of the service and moving on to the next introductory explanation. (Seriously, at my first Conservative Kabbalat Shabbat, I closed my siddur after saying minofet tzuf v’chol ta-am. What, you mean there’s more to Yedid Nefesh? Crazy talk!) I do not like knowing more Hebrew than was ever used in the service.*
Do I think these represent all Reform congregations everywhere? No. Absolutely not. There’s too many of them, with too many rabbis and too many communities for this to be wholly representative (or at least I tell myself this daily). But these things did make my skin crawl and I eventually had to say enough is enough. No more.
So then I tried Conservative. And it was exactly what I wanted, like Goldilocks’ porridge. Mussaf, full kriah, kippot AND tallitot, tefillin, Hebrew…. AND women and men on the bimah with no mechitzah. Woot. Score.
(*Some of my Reform readers and friends may be feeling pood on right about now. That’s not my intent. These things make MY skin scrawl, but they make YOURS toss off your shoes, put up your feet and go, “aaaaah, home!”)