Orthodox Jewish Temple Visit
Kaitlynn Mellor Global and Cultural Perspectives Dr. iwanwanfuckychoo 3 February 2010 Visiting a Different Religion This past Friday January 29, I attended a Jewish Mincha, or afternoon prayer, in comparison to the Shacharis, or morning prayer, held earlier that day. My class prevented me from observing that. I visited Congregation Poale Zedeck in Squirrel Hill just outside of Downtown Pittsburgh. I sat in the balcony with the other women because I was trying to respectfully observe their faith and was very unfamiliar with their traditions.
It was a good thing I left my dorm early because I had some trouble driving in the rush hour traffic. The entrance was through a great beautiful stone archway with blue satined glass windows around the stonework. From the outside the building looked very much like a church. When I got inside there were many stained glass windows, but what caught my attention is the beautiful blue and white domed high ceiling, with a magnificent crystal chandelier, unlike I had ever seen in a Christian Church. I could barely believe how beautiful the sight was. I have to admit I was pretty nervous being by myself to somewhere new like this.
I informed a gentleman at the entrance who seemed to be some sort of greeter, and he informed me that the women sit in the balcony or off the side area separated from the men. I sat up in the balcony where I had a good view of the ceiling. There were some similarities in the Jewish faith service compared to my own. To start with I was raised as a Christian and went to Mars United Presbyterian Church in Mars, Pennsylvania. When I was young my father was even one of the Deacons at the church. The layout of the church that I went to in comparison to the Jewish Synagogue where very similar.
The shape of the synagogue was similar to that of my church at home. Both of the leaders of the sabbath ceremony in the Jewish faith and in my own were led by a male that wore ceremonial robes, tho not the same. Many of the prayers were in a call response form, much like Christian ceremonies. There also were many differences in their own prayer service from my own. Firstly, the prayers were in Hebrew and they required the walking and bowing several times. There were no crosses, but instead there was a Star of David behind the alter and on some of the stain glass windows.
There seemed to be more men than women, and all of the men wore small round hats, called a yamaca. The service was led by a rabbi, not a reverend like my church at home. The rabbi’s name was Ari Goldberg. He wore a black suit with a white cloth draped over his shoulders for the ceremony. Also, Rabbi Goldberg did not move around as much and did not talk about personal life lessons. It was very strictly ceremonial. The service was fairly short, just about fifteen minutes long. Also the services are held on different days. It was very strange to have the men and women separated.
I have never been to a ceremony where that was required. Also, there were no children in the service, where at my church at home, children were encouraged to interact and go to their own readings where they were taught the scripture passages in terms that they could relate to and understand. There was no talk of Jesus in the service. This in itself makes the two faiths extremely different. They called God both God and Yahweh. Also, they referred to many old testament prophets that I have heard of in the Christian faith. To follow along, I tried to use a siddur I found in the pew.
It gave a list of the prayers that were said at each of the four sabbath services, but the downside is that it was not written in English. It was written in Hebrew script. During the ceremony, when the Jewish books were being moved in and out, the congregation stood. When reciting the prayers, a special bow involving a bending and straightening of the knees and hips is done. Overall, it was an interesting experience and I learned a lot. I don’t think that I will be going back but the people were very nice and understanding of my purpose there. I can see how that Christianity gained its roots from these Jewish Ceremonies.