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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Places I Like to Daven

AKSE's annual meeting last night. Come the end of the month I will find myself back on the Board. That affords me a measure of responsibility though probably very little influence. AKSE is the most suitable placement for me but I cannot honestly say that I would seek it out as my preferred sanctuary. Going there fulfills an obligation to recite Kaddish in my father's memory and in previous circumstances to meet my personal expectation to honor shabbat. I cannot say that I often return to my car thinking "y'hi shem ha-m'vorach me-atah v'ad olam." Over the years, now decades, there are places that I sought out as desired destinations. As a kid, I liked attending the Community Synagogue of Monsey more than my home congregation the JCC of Spring Valley. By my late teens I had taken a liking to Rabbi Hillel Friedman and began to regard the JCC as the place to be on shabbat. Into my adult years, as geography restricted my access, my destination when in Monsey was the JCC and my annual maternal yahrtzeit donation went there. In college and beyond I would rarely miss shabbat at Penn or WashU Hillel. They had a destination value. Harvard Hillel never lured me. However as a senior resident, my one year at Beth El Quincy remains among my fondest Jewish memories.

Though I have been a permanent resident of Delaware for about thirty years, raised my family here and adhered to a good part of the Jewish tradition, the community never really captured my enthusiasm, not the synagogues, not the leaders. There is no place that I cannot in good conscience walk away from if the circumstances suggested that I should, and have on occasion. I've been to all the synagogues, paid dues to at least one place each year since my arrival but have never sought out a sanctuary here as the place I would like to be more than any other until very recently. Shalom TV introduced me to a rabbi in Baltimore that I had to check out, and was never disappointed in my three visits there. Closer to home, Kaddish brought me to the local reform congregation. That has now become my Kabbalat Shabbat destination. I really like being in each of those two places, as divergent as they seem to be.

Common threads have been elusive. I really liked all the rabbis, though the Hillel rabbis had next to nothing to do with the worship experience. Sermons that would classify as machshava, insights that I could not glean on my own, count for something but some of the Wilmington Rabbis have been able to do that without enhancing the experience of occupying space in their sanctuaries. If I had to select an attribute that links them all it might be the absence of pretense. Reform is Reform but can be executed expertly without the defensiveness to external attacks that it plays to the least common denominator. Beth Emeth and its last couple of Rabbis do nothing of the kind. It's liturgy is brief but the last two chazanim have the musical skills to make the sounds of the sanctuary sparkle. I have my preferred seat and the rabbi recognizes me as the guy who can sight-read Hebrew without the vowels, but he probably does not know my name. Rabbi Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore probably would not recognize my presence amid the several hundred worshippers that grace his shul in several parallel locations each shabbos morning. Yet I am part of the proceedings each time I am there. Again, I have my preferred seat. Despite being an OU affiliate, the mechitza is plexiglass, the Torah moves across it, women ascend the Bimah for prayers for the USA and Israel, the parking lot remains open. No suggestion that frumkeit is ranked. They are modern orthodox, with microphones and commitment to educating their kids to function as American Jews into adulthood. Retrospectively I can say the same about the JCC Spring Valley and the Community Synagogue of Monsey. They are what they are and never diminished their standards, even to the point of extinction for the JCC. The Community Synagogue had a posek, a grand one at that, but did not have Keter Kahuna to supplement Rav Tendler's Keter Torah. They were never condescending to me or to the best of my knowledge to my marginally observant family. The JCC of Spring Valley read Torah in its entirety at each specified occasion, cut no corners on siddur, and took the education of its kids seriously, for the most part. I had a dispute with the head of the teen service and preferred to stay in the main service. Nobody ever pressured me to leave where I wanted to be. Beth El Quincy was a struggling place my one year there. Conservative Judaism was in evolution in its treatment of women, requiring the Rabbi to feel his way. He looked at the laws and concluded when so many before and since conclude then peer back to justify what they have ruled. Shabbat attendance was small but loyal. The people mattered, even the transients.

The two Hillels have a slightly different legacy. They are conducted for and by students. My two returns to Penn as a geezer, part worshipper but part observer, reinforced my experience of the 1970's. There were only orthodox services in my day but the non-orthodox recognized that mechitzas were necessary to maintain community and stablity, thus accepting it. More recently, the Penn Hillel has the only true Orthodox/Conservative separate but equal parallel services that I have encountered. It is the same principle of for the students by the students. As a consequence, the fondness for the experience has lasted decades after I could no longer be called a member of the university community.

It would be rather easy to take a pot shot at my current congregation, my past congregation or their leaders. Often at board meetings or at kiddush I do. The baalebatim at these two places probably think they do everything that my preferred congregations do, from liturgical expertise to engaging their members to respecting diversity and contemporary values. By they do not seem to do it with Kedusha as the end point, striving to be a place where worshippers praise HaShem en route back to their cars for enabling the people there to grant them a holy experience.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Geekdom. It was one of the more enlightening shabbatot, largely a break from the halachic imperatives. In the name of pikuach nefesh I returned to the world of platelet donors yesterday. My appointment was not until 12:30 so I could have gone to AKSE but I had been to Beth Emeth for Kaddish the night before. AKSE had a bar mitzvah, son of a lady whose past encounters were troublesome and Beth Emeth counts as a place of Kedusha, which AKSE does not. Thus I rationalized doing something other than services in preparation for my mid-day phlebotomy. igp had to pick up her Toyota which needed a gas tank replacement so I took her to the repair shop. I thought about going to breakfast buffet near CCHS but I opted for seeking breakfast at the U of D campus less than a mile away. Finding a non-chain place open before 10AM took some exploration but at the western end of Main Street I found a Bagels&Deli place run by a Hispanic family. I was by far the oldest person in the room with the owner as my only contemporary. The kids were probably alumni of the last few classes. Nearly all except those registered for a 5K event showed up in flip-flops and whether registered or not I seemed to be the only one with long trousers except for one fellow who came in his pajama bottoms. I placed my order quickly, had trouble finding a place to sit down, spilling a notable fraction of my coffee on my jeans and dorsum of my hand. By bagel and egg took more than twenty minutes to deliver, long enough for the other places on Main Street to open by the time I chowed down.

Having invested in a state park seasonal pass, I walked back to my car, enough of a distance to count as exercise, then followed the GPS incorrectly to White Clay Creek State Park, puttered there for a short time, then sought my amusement at Marshalls, the expanded version which was a great disappointment, then found my way to the newly remodeled blood bank, which the GPS could not locate but I knew where it was. After my donation of platelets and plasma, I selected a crimson blood bank hat as a premium, then off to look around for stuff I really did not want to buy at Costco, then crossing the street to check out the new wing of the Christiana Mall, again nothing of interest there other than an expanded Barnes & Noble. On the way out I came upon the Apple Store which had some IPads on display. I found it very difficult to use. The keyboard was not in either a qwerty or an alphabetical pattern, moving up and down was not obvious nor was moving back to where I was or closing down. And to think that in my day of the 1960's I was a prototypical geek of the era, though we were not called that then. In the ensuing forty years I've been evicted from the Geek Fraternity for not keeping up with their foreign language.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Surprisingly quiet morning. I'm a little tired the last few days, my biologic clock awakening me the last few nights at 3:30AM and my accomodating this setting by going downstairs to watch some tv, not exactly drivel but not exactly productive either. After an hour I return to be, never quite dose off but at least rest and do not have significant problems arising again at a suitable time but it catches up with me later in the day. I took some diphenhydramine capsules over the Memorial Day weekend which enabled me more uninterupted sleep, not as good as the office Ambien CR samples but good enough. Today I did little chores: the bank, billing, paying some bills. I was a little concerned that the last few office deposits have been paltry but Medicare has started direct deposit so my balance turned out a good deal more than I had feared. It had been my intent to do some larger projects related to the new job but I think I'd rather do it in a bolus tomorrow and some on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Got my Pennsylvania license application in the mail finally. Started getting forms from Mercy Phila Hospital to get started. I feel reasonably accomplished having done this form which took a little work and may take some more if I misinterpreted what they want.

Went to an akse board meeting as a pre-member since what was being presented will be the main topic once I take my place on the board. Financial stability and membership development go hand in hand. They spend too much money relative to their income. At least the committee on finance dealt with their task honestly. There is really only one big ticket items for saving money, reducing one clergy spot which saves big moolah every year. Renting the building is too tenuous and even if successful can collapse in one year. Dropping the school impacts on membership, particularly the type of membership of greatest long term value. Revenue enhancement in a grand way, short of an unexpectedly generous bequest, means selling property and that is a one time windfall. Membership development has been on the agenda every year since I've been there and never materializes. I do not think it can materialize with our policies relative to other options that prospective members might have. That is not to belittle making akse a more welcoming place but it cannot occur with business as usual which has allowed it to fall short.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

For some unclear reason I feel sad today. There is no apparent precipitating event and I have been good about taking my citalopram. I'm not tired, my back feels better, I'm not irritible, just sad. Not tearful at all, maybe bored, maybe undermotivated to do the tasks I know I should do. Just a little inexplicably despondent.

I must get the license data out today, the journal ad tomorrow and the letter the day after.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day, a day off, though one with a very lengthy to do list that finds me less than motivated. It wasn't a total washout. I went to Bellvue State Park, cleared a path from the study entrance to the computer, planted dill-coriander-chives in the backyard herb garden, planned out the coming week and made some headway on the next six months activities. I put clothing away, though not all of it, and used my new camera of limited capacity. Milchig dishes got washed. The herbs on the front entrance got watered and inspected. AKSE annual Cafe Tamar tonight.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I'm a little tired, maybe disappointed in how little I did today relative to plans. I was to remove ivy from the side of the deck, which I attempted using scissors. I could not find my sickle and went from place to place trying to obtain another, eventually settling on a 22 in machete which chops a lot better than it slices. My new camera needs a slot card and some good batteries. I wanted to write some things and of course work on my office departure and new professional destination. Tomorrow is another day off to give it a go.