#18 Temple Beth-El


Suggest a Place of Worship


website by BKTHD



This Friday, at 6pm I attended Temple Beth-El synagogue located at 3330 Grove Avenue.  Initially, I had anticipated going to Congregation Or Ami on Hugenot road but because of my desire to go to an earlier service, I decided upon Beth El.  Before going, I called to make sure there was nothing I should know. When I inquired about dress, I was told it was a very casual service, come as you are.

Friday night is usually date night for my husband and I.  It's pretty understood that we set this time aside for the two of us to enjoy one another's company.  When I told him I'd be attending Beth-El, he offered to join me.  This was the first time since I started this project that I had gone to worship with someone else, initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. 

On our way to the synagogue I turned the radio station to 590 AM Christian radio.  Just as I did, my husband gave me a look I've come quite accustomed to, it's the  "Really, Jessica...Christian Radio?" look.  It's not that he has anything against Christian radio but Patrick is the type who carries around an eclectic mix of songs on his Ipod and drives with the windows down and music up. I returned his look with a look he's also become quite familiar with the "yep.  Christian Radio. Christian Books.  Christian conferences.  Christian TV.  Christian blogging, so what of it?" look. He's quickly learning that this Christian thing isn't fizzling out like most of my interests.  Nor is it something I'm reserving for Sunday's only.

The radio sermon was regarding homosexuality and the Christian faith.  We both listened pretty intensely, asking one another what our thoughts were on the topic.  Just as we got knee deep into the subject, we hit an immense amount of traffic.  As our car came to a rolling stop, it became abundantly clear to me how loud the sermon was playing.  I instinctually went to turn it down.  I hoped no one around me knew I was listening to a) Christian radio but B) Christian radio with homosexuality as the subject matter.  Should I feel guilty about listening to a sermon on this subject, I wondered?  I quickly evaluated the situation in my head. It wasn't hate speech.  It wasn't attacking the people, it was just addressing the subject from a biblical perspective.  It didn't even mean that by listening, I shared the pastor's feelings on the subject.  Nonetheless, my urge to stand strong and keep playing the sermon lost out.  I looked around me to see if anyone had already heard and then crouched down in the passengers seat while I lowered the station to a whisper.

The traffic lasted for almost 20 minutes until we decided to take another route downtown.  We ended up walking into the synagogue at 6:15, 15 minutes late.  Before entering Patrick asked me if we should just wait until 7:30 and make our way to Hugenot.  I was eager to attend so we decided to just go ahead and discreetly enter and sit in the back. Patrick opened up the door for me and I walked in first.  Much to my surprise, the entire congregation was backwards in the pews, facing our tardy, non-Jewish selves dead on.  My immediate reaction was to run.  And so I did.  I hid behind Patrick so I was no longer in their view and anxiously whispered "I think this is the wrong door!!!  It appears we're in the front of the synagogue.... like on their stage!  I don't get it, how could that be????  I think this is the wrong door.  Everyone is staring at us!  OH MAN!  HOW DID WE GO IN THE WRONG DOOR???"  He looked equally as scared of the situation.  "Should we go?"  he asked while pushing me toward the exit.    "No, I'm staying!" I insisted. After about 30 seconds of silence, Patrick peeked around the corner and signaled with his hands for me to follow him.  He whispered "they're turned back around.  We can go for it"    We quickly scurried in and took a seat in the back row. 

Patrick was wearing jeans and a checkered shirt.  I mean, they did say "casual and come as you are" when I called so this seemed appropriate.  Well after looking around, we quickly came to the conclusion that Jews must wear 3 piece suits while lounging around their house watching television.  Because this was one casually dressed up bunch.  So not only were we late, and non-Jewish, but we were dressed like street toughs.   Knowing that we were now clearly "outsiders", we both opened the prayerbook and buried our heads into it.  When I turned to page 1, it said page 338.  And then page 2 read page 337, page 3, 336 and so on.  I didn't get it?  Why was the book backwards?  And why was the congregation backwards when we walked in? And why does casual mean Sunday's best? What's going on here?  At this point, I had kinda resigned myself to the fact that this was just Jewish opposite day or something.

Makeshift Hijab turned Pashmina

Makeshift Hijab turned Pashmina

The service itself consisted of a lot of standing up and sitting down while reading out of the prayer book.  The Rabbi briefly praised an Australian Jew named Theodor Herzl who was known to many as the visionary of Zionism because it was his 150 birthday.   And the service concluded with a Bat Mitvah, the recognition of young Jewish girl coming into womanhood.   As the congregation left the building, each of us were greeted by Sr. Rabbi Gary Creditor before leaving.  Truth be told, Rabbi wasn't very nice to us.  He kinda gave us a disapproving look while saying, "so, are you visiting friends or something?" I thought maybe it was just me, but Patrick agreed that we weren't exactly welcomed with open arms.  But I guess I wouldn't know what to think of us either with me hiding behind Patrick, walking in late, wearing jeans, and just looking like odd balls.  So I'll try not to judge the synagogue based on the experience.  I will say though that I am going to try a Jewish synagogue again.  I won't let this be my one and only experience.  Next time though, I'm going to just wait til the 7:30 and attend Congregation Or Ami out in Southside.  I mean, look at this guy....how could he not be friendly?  http://www.or-ami.com/rabbi.html


If you're looking for a Conservative Jewish synagogue I'd probably not go here, but you'd probably not show up late, running around like fools in jeans either so enjoy.... http://www.bethelrichmond.org

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  • Nicole Unice

    Nicole Unice May 05, 2010

    Jessica, I LOVE the new site. Great job! OH, and btw, you really should come check out Hope. It’s got a cool vibe and of course, I love it. smile http://www.hopecentral.com.

  • janice

    janice May 05, 2010

    Sorry for the bad experience The Rabbi from Ori Ami spoke to adult Ed. at St.Matthias recently and was great very laidback maybe you could try there love janice

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