Thursday, September 13, 2007

And A Happy New year to you too....

L'shana tova. Etc. etc.

I am not, obviously, in temple, reading responsively and getting ready to cast my sins into the waters of--um, the American River. I am at home, in my office, at my computer, feeling only marginally guilty.

This is the first year since I've been back in California (was it only 1996 that I moved back?) that I haven't done the whole bit at the High Holydays. The whole bit meaning: spent some time during the month before reading and thinking and doing whatever to prepare for the New Year; then spending erev Rosh Hoshanah as well as THE TWO days of the holiday in synagogue; then going to a body of water to cast my sins with other similarly-observant people. Most often this all included family or friends. Never D, who is anti-religion, although he does enjoy eating the apples and honey which we serve so as to ensure a sweet year.

The first years I was back in LA, I went with my niece et al to their Conservative synagogue. It was okay, except that since most of the service is in Hebrew, which somehow I never learned beyond the alphabet (aleph, bet, gimel, daled....), the depth of my comprehension was somewhat, shall we say, limited. When we moved into the city, my mother and I joined a Reform Temple, which just happens to be the one, I'm not name-dropping or anything, where Eddie Fisher and Liz Taylor were married. Truthfully, if you're a Jew in LA and go to synagogue on the High Holydays, you'll probably run into a movie star or two, because as you know we run Hollywood and we're everywhere and the Holydays brings us out of the woodwork like, well, like whatever.

For the past two years, since I've been in Sacramento, I've had to go to services alone. This is every bit as woeful as it sounds. The Holydays are the time when Jews come out in mass and it's a big homecoming, how ya doing, look what I'm up to now. Which is meaningless if you know no one at the synagogue. Also, and I know this sounds somewhat anti-Semitic, but I've never found Jews particularly welcoming in the same way that good Christian ladies know how to make a person feel at home. So the past two years, I've made the necessary arrangements, donned my High Holyday finery (traditionally one's new fall outfit, which then one can sweat in because it is so' hot), and traipsed off to services by myself. Where I more or less remained alone, except for last year when I fell in with a couple of converts who remained at heart good Christian ladies and remember how to do the Welcome Wagon thing.

This year I couldn't do it. I could make all sorts of excuses but the reality is that I couldn't face going to synagogue alone. I'm just starting not to feel like that Grecian Formula commercial--"Rejected!"--and I don't want to be inscribed in the Book of Life this year as some nebbishy, woeful loser.

So I'm staying home, eating my apples and honey by myself and hoping that this year may be sweeter. For you, too.


  1. Knowing nothing about High HolyDays, I can still feel sympathetic as I know that I would not even consider Midnight Mass on X-mas Eve unless tied up and dragged there by my nearest and dearest. I am unabashedly secular and am as likely to attend synagogue as a Christian Sunday service which means that I too appreciate the foods of important holidays more than the religious import. So I hope the apples and honey are delicious and your new year is the sweetest!

  2. Happy New year, Jane. We did nothing either....Bad right along with you...My family denied being Jewish for so many years I ended up being raised Christian.. Michael was just too tired...
    Sweetness and blessings for the new year...

  3. I do believe you're completely normal.

    I think this is some sort of strange divorce rite of passage - rejecting the holidays. I haven't really celebrated a holiday since 2003. I have done the mandatory Thanksgiving dinner, but nothing even close to the over the top decorating/celebrating I used to do when in a relationship.

    This year, however I plan to do it all despite being single because this is the first year I WANT to. I'm pretty sure that's a sign of something good.

    So you should just do or don't do whatever you feel or don't feel like doing. Maybe what you're doing now is a ritual of sorts?

  4. Happy New Year to you too!

    I know, I don't make a good Jew do I? But hey, if you're not feeling the love at temple why don't you kick it with me Catholic style? We can do Mass and then sneak off with the wine...

  5. cce: what's to know, as we would say in a good Brooklyn accent. The apples and honey were excellent; all that was missing was the challah.

    denise: l'shana tova to you, too. my mother always believed that she could be closer to God on the Holydays outside in nature than in a synagogue.

    sturdy girl: I don't know that this is a ritual so much as not pushing myself to do something I don't want to. My autumn wreath is hung on the door and I'm scrubbing down my kitchen today--because I want to.

    queen: you make a fabulous Jew--as did Jesus. And did you miss the post where I said that before I learned I was Jewish, I thought I was Catholic?

  6. I would have loved to have gone to a gathering at someone's house and eat a lot!! I love smoked salmon with bagels!

  7. mrsmogul: so, c'mon over...or maybe I'll sooner be in NYC.

  8. Gosh - I can imagine how you felt. It's tough to go alone and most synagogues don't reach out so well to new congregants. If you'd like, I'll ask my rabbi for the names of some rabbis out there who know how to generate community - as I've written about on my blog there is a new generation of rabbis creating amazing communities that reach out to all, at all levels of observance. You shouldn't be deprived because of a lack of rabbinic leadership. Let me know and I'll get you some names before Yom Kippur. Sorry if I'm being intrusive, I just so know how you feel. I felt the same way the whole time I lived in LA.

  9. cynthia:

    Thanks so much for your caring--the opposite of intrusive! It isn't the rabbis--the one's I've met here are clearly of the New Breed you talk about. A lot of it is me--too many years of being the only Jew in town, too many years of sorority girls at temple and school, too many years of going alone even as a kid. Whew! That was therapeutic!

  10. single mom9:59 AM

    Thank you so much for writing this! I can't believe how guilty I have felt for all these years - truth is, I have no Jewish Family to speak of - I am an only child who has divorced parents (since I was four). I attended temple with my mom as a child and then once or twice in college.
    Through my 20's and 30's I went by myself in the town I lived. Now, I am newly divorced myself (my husband was not Jewish so I went by myself even when I was married).
    My son is just a toddler - I did bring him to a child service when he was a baby but now I don't feel like dragging him since he does not yet understand the holiday.

    I don't want to go = so, can I say THANK YOU to you all - I still love my life and my G-d but I don't want to go by myself!!

  11. single mom: thank YOU for your comment.
    get the apples and the honey. Your son will love them and you'll have a sweet year!


So--whaddaya think?