Yesterday I went to Yom Kippur services. This summer I had lunch with a wonderful woman whose partner is a rabbi at a shul, HaMakom, which holds services at a pretty little church in town, so I decided to go there. It's a progressive synagogue, both rabbi and cantor are women, and though I don't know all the history, someone told me it broke off from the larger reform temple here, Beth Sholom.
First thing was, everyone (except for me and a few others) were wearing white, or almost white. In all my years of going to High Holiday services, I knew the rabbi and cantor would always wear white, but never the congregation. No, it was always an event to dress up for, wear new fall clothes and all that. In Miami Beach, it was still sweltering but you wanted to wear a little suit, and when I was a kid, it was unthinkable to wear pants. That has changed, obviously. But here people were wearing white jeans, crocs, and the like, some were dressed beautifully in long flowing garments, many had little yarmulkes pinned on their heads, pretty crocheted ones, even beaded ones. The rabbi invited all of us to put on a talit, the prayer shawl that is usually worn by men. I've never had one on, in my recollection, and it was a nice feeling, to be wrapped up in it. Especially since it was cold in there.
Another thing was, there was a dog there. It had a little outfit saying it was a service dog, but it was a cocker spaniel and the person who brought it was most definitely not blind. Who knows though. It was pretty well behaved but at one point started to bark (it wasn't a particularly loud part of the service, perhaps it saw a vision of some sort.) I thought maybe Lucy would have enjoyed going to services and she was already dressed in white, but maybe she would have been bored. For a portion of the service a beautiful little girl, barefoot, pranced around the synagogue giving hugs to almost anyone. It seemed she knew everyone, and she was quite enjoying herself. Her mother was on the bima and the little girl particularly enjoyed hopping on one foot up and down the aisles. Everyone seemed amused.
I'm making it sound like it was bedlam in there, and it wasn't at all, I just found it refreshingly, but disconcertingly casual. After all, this wasn't some happy holiday- it was the Day of Atonement. I atoned for the snarky remark I made about the dead flies the other day (which I've vacuumed away.) It was a beautiful, moving service. Instead of a sermon, there were three people who are involved in the Judaism course- the teacher (mother of abovementioned child) a woman of 75 who will be Bat Mitzvah in May, and a man of 60-something whose partner is Jewish and who is converting. Their commitment to the religion and their willingness to immerse themselves in theory and ritual was very inspiring. I felt a real sense of community in that room, and a lot of acceptance and love. Most of the congregation (and Santa Fe as a whole) is comprised of somewhat older transplants. The rabbi referred a lot to her sermon of the night before, about "sageing instead of ageing." Something I would like to remember. When I would tell my story, they'd say, you won't want to leave. We'll see. I met some lovely people and it was the first time I've spent the entire day of Yom Kippur at synagogue, culminating in a beautiful pot luck break-fast.