Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Tale of Two Synagogues

Once upon a time, our synagogue had a big, beautiful building and hundreds of members.

That building is long gone--sold, demolished, and replaced by a school--and we now have so few members that our current, much-smaller sanctuary is never full, even on the High Holidays.

When our synagogue moved its services onto Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made not to run any evening services except the Erev Yom Kippur/Kol Nidre service, because that's the only evening service for which we're sure we'll get a minyan.  Since my husband is our shul's acting rabbi, we've been co-leading the services from our apartment while our cantor co-leads from his, and having no evening services leaves my husband and me free to "shul-hop" (davven/worship in other synagogues) for Maariv/Arvit for the moment.

So we had the pleasure of "going to" B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan via livestream on Erev Simchat Torah.  It's been years since we've been able to attend a Simchat Torah service in which there were dozens of davveners dancing around the Torah scrolls during the hakafot.  I truly miss the liveliness of a Simchat Torah that actually looks and sounds and feels like a real celebration.

As a surprise bonus, I was presented with a guessing game.  How could that woman look so familiar even though I couldn't see her face?  Well, BJ does have a rabbinic intern who's a singer and often wears a fit-and-flare dress when giving a concert.  And that headband is practically her trademark.  The mystery was solved when all three rabbis were among the dancers and the cantor was the only clergyperson singing in the front of the room--the "mystery woman" went up to one of the rabbis' microphones, turned around to face the congregation (and the camera), and joined the cantor in leading the singing.  Yep, it was Deborah Sacks Mintz.

The hakafot were wonderful while they lasted, but the next morning, we were back on Zoom co-leading less than a minyan.  We had trouble getting a minyan on weekday holidays even back in the good old days, when we met in person, so we weren't surprised, just sad.  It's literally not much fun, belonging to a "Little Shul on the Prairie."


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