Yes, you read that correctly! The Orthodox synagogue I attended this past Sabbath was much more than a "nice place." Everybody went out of their way to make me feel welcome, and despite the fact that I acted much more like their men than like their women, even though I am a woman, nobody seemed to mind, and I did feel welcome. Next week I am even daring to take my prayer shawl; I saw another woman there wearing one this week. It's going to be a while before I let my holy fringes from my undergarment dangle, but possibly I can even see that happening, too.
For Friday night, this synagogue is an even better option than the one I used to attend; I have a strong feeling I will continue going to this one even after I have a choice again. This synagogue gets a minyan, the prayer quorum of ten required for much of the service, even without counting women; the other synagogue struggles to make that happen, even though they do count women. Without a minyan, the service takes maybe 20 minutes; it's not worth walking sixteen blocks each direction for that. Also, this is an Orthodox synagogue that allows women to sing. (Some don't.) Everybody present, including the women, knew what was going on and how to participate, and participate they did.
For Saturday morning, I still prefer the 16-blocks-away synagogue, but this one will do for now, and it's much, much better than nothing. It's also close enough that I can go back for the late evening end-of-Sabbath services and such.
And the best part? The Rabbi, who is black-hat-and-frock-coat ultra-Orthodox, likes and respects me. I can tell. I spent the whole Sabbath acting more like a man than like a woman, and he could have chosen to be annoyed. Instead, he sees that I care about my Judaism, and that's what he cares about. Perfect example: On Saturday afternoon he gave a d'var Torah, a speech about something Jewish. Everybody else congratulated him with the usual Yiddish at the end; as is my norm, I used the proper Hebrew. At first he didn't understand what I said; he asked me to repeat myself, so I did. He didn't say the proper return formula, but he did say "You too." From the way he said those two little words, I could tell that he was developing deep respect for my knowledge level.
Also, at one point during the service, the Rabbi noticed me sitting when everyone else was standing. He walked over and parted the barrier between the men's section and the women's section (I was the only woman present) to ask if I was OK! In the moment, of course I just said yes; it wouldn't have been right to interrupt the service to explain. People are so warm and friendly there, though, eventually I think I'll have to say something about pain, which I haven't yet.
As the Sabbath went on, I lost my shyness and people saw and heard more of how I do Judaism. I could tell that they were beginning to both wonder why I was there, and to have some inkling that there was more to my story than I had told. (All they know so far is that I wanted to try out a different synagogue.) A few people know that I "didn't feel like making the long walk" to my usual synagogue; one person knows that I "have trouble standing." That's all anybody knows right now, which is as it should be, but especially considering how kind the Rabbi is to me, he at least is going to have to know something more pretty soon.
And another best part? Despite the fact that I am still hurting just as much as I was before (and Friday night was so bad I couldn't sleep with covers), I feel so emotionally energized and recharged, enough to go back to helping the world. So here is "GRAYSON," the first boy I came to on the Reece's Rainbow "At-Risk of Aging Out" page whom I haven't posted yet. "Grayson" ages out NEXT JULY, and is diagnosed with DOWN SYNDROME, CEREBRAL PALSY, FLAIL LEGS, SECONDARY MULTISYSTEMIC CENTRAL ORIGIN DYSTROPHY, DELAY OF PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT, and SEVERE MENTAL DELAYS.
"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."
I believe in God.
I believe in God.
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- I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!