Rosh Hashana thoughts

by tobybee

Shana tova all – I hope everyone had as lovely a Rosh Hashana as I did. This year was a bit of a different one in my family, as we were simultaneously more and less engaged with Jewish practices in what we did.

This year was the first year that we changed shuls, going to Kehilat Nitzan, instead of our usual South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation. Why did we change? For a few, very large, reasons. Everyone in our family had their own impulses, but for me it was two main things: I was over sitting upstairs, separately, feeling like it was impossible to be a part of the service that happened below and didn’t require my presence. In that vein, I no longer feel the connection with Orthodox Judaism that I once did. When my parents suggesting changing shuls 10
years ago, I didn’t want to: South Caulfield represented a connection to my family who had passed away, and provided me with the comfort and songs which I associated with Judaism. To change shuls at that time felt like a change in my identity, one which I did not want. But, 10 years on, having started to have a more meaningful
engagement with Judaism and Jewish cultures, I now want a living, breathing, Judaism, one which I can actively practice and participate in. And so, I thought, Kehilat Nitzan, a conservative shul, would be able to provide that.

I was also very much over listening to the sermons from the Rabbi at South Caulfield. Although it did provide a good half hour for a nap, I’m also interested in hearing interesting thinkers talk (as one of my friends has said in the past, one of my hobbies is going to talks), and the Rabbi at South Caulfield is conservative, insular and boring in his thinking. At the end of Yom Kippur last year, I knew that I couldn’t take listening to him again.

And so I pushed us to change shuls, a change which everyone in my family was, more or less, also pushing for us to make.

And what do I think of Kehilat Nitzan? I’m still processing my thoughts – it didn’t feel like exactly what I am looking for, but I can’t quite figure out why not as yet – and want to see what happens on Yom Kippur (yes, we’re those 3 times a year people). My first thoughts are that I liked the fact that women weren’t merely included, but are an
equal part of the service. I loved that a woman blew the shofar. I loved that people of all ages were actively involved in running the service. I liked sitting with my whole family, if just because it meant that I didn’t need to save my critiques of the sermon until after shul, but could whisper back and forth with my brother during and after the sermon. (slightly rude? maybe. but on the plus side, we’re thinking and critiquing, which is something which, as far as I’m concerned, is a vital part of Jewishness…)

As for our more relaxed engagement with R.H. Well, it was preliminary final week in football, and that meant that while we had 18 people for dinner at my parents place on Friday night, the Saints were at the MCG doing us proud. (Go Saints!) It also meant that we regularly ducked upstairs to check the scores, and my dad sat with the radio in one ear for much of dinner. As my cousin said, it was an assimilated, Melbourne Jewish yontif. Which, in the end, is very much what we are. In any case, I’d like to think that the whole thing didn’t detract so much from the Rosh Hashana experience, but merely enhanced our joyousness on the occasion. And if we win this coming Saturday, we’ll have even more to thank God for come Sunday night’s Kol Nidre…