This story is a month late. Two days after this event, I came down with the flu. It’s hard to think, and especially to write, with a head full of, well, never mind. Here it is now…
It was just 13 days after a gunman had opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshippers and injuring 7 others. It was 80 years to the day after Kristallnacht.
We stopped while the security guard apologetically checked our handbags. We understand, we told him. Inside, Temple Akiba was packed with members of the congregation and friends and families of six adult people who were celebrating their B’nai Mitzvah. My husband Bruce and I, along with several of our good friends, were there to celebrate with our friend Laurie and her mother Lillian.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise.”
Inside, Temple Akiba was a lively and joyful place. And surprisingly diverse. There were black Jews, and Asian Jews, and non-Jews like me. They were gay, and straight. There was singing, and clapping and dancing, and if you don’t know the words, the Cantor told us, you can just sing “la la la.”
Bruce, who has a good ear for music and languages, sang along from the transliterations in the prayer book. For me, it was more meaningful just to listen and read the English translations - strikingly, not surprisingly, familiar.
The Torah portion for the week was not the most uplifting (in my opinion) - the story of Jacob and Esau. Each of the B’nai Mitzvah read their portion in Hebrew and later said what about the story they found meaningful. Me, I’ve always wondered how things might have been different if Rebecca had trusted God to fulfill His promise without resorting to subterfuge.
At the end, they spread the Rabbi’s tallit over all of them, holding up the corners like a canopy, and danced underneath. His banner over me is love.
“You will be my people, and I will be your God.”
My ultimate take away from the service - the message, the importance of the B’nai Mitzvah, is the confession of faith: “Yes, I am one of your people, this is my choice.” Even though it’s not easy. Even though it’s not safe - and it never has been.
Confessions of faith are never easy - they’re not meant to be.
Other people won’t understand: “Do you have to go to church?” (“I want to go to church.”)
You will be ridiculed: “But how can you give up bacon?”
You might be threatened: “Towel-head! Terrorist!”
Your people will be persecuted and some will be killed for it - for thousands of years!
Yet every day, all around the world - safely or in danger - Jews, and Christians, and Muslims make their confessions of faith in God with thanksgiving and praise.