Last night I attended my second Shabbat service at the synogogue (or shul or temple as I hope to become accustomed to saying.) By the time I got off the el, my heart was racing. The week before, I’d had my roommate to guide me through the service. I’m a quick learner, but I was still a nervous wreck.
Because I stutter so bad when I say Shabbat Sholom and Good Shabbas, I try not to make eye contact or greet anyone. I’m not trying to be rude, but I am a little on the shy side sometimes and this is definitely one of those times. So I found my seat and my place in the prayer book. There were familiar faces from the week before and a lot of new people. The woman behind me chatted with me and at times during the service would ask, “What page are we on?”
Considering it was only week two, I’m still having trouble keeping up with the hebrew prayers and english songs and english prayers and hebrew songs. Plus since it was a cantor and congregant led service, it was less formal than the week before. A quartet of women led the songs and the songs were not the same as the prayer book had.
After the service I went to the new year’s eve party for a while. At first I set my coffee down at an empty table and then decided that sitting alone was no way to join the jewish community I’d come there for. I picked up my cup of decaf and sat with the women who’d been behind me during the service.
I still haven’t found a good way to tell people that I’m not jewish, not yet. Everyone wants to know why? Why are you converting? What is it about us, that makes you want to be one? How long have you been thinking about it?
The stock answer is “I read a book and started thinking and then I read another book.” Born jews are pretty interested in why someone would choose conversion. One man found out I was from Indiana and said, “Us Hoosier Hebes gotta stick together.”
I found it easier to articulate my desire to convert to an Ecuadorian woman named Tina. We spoke in spanish. Funny–I never thought about an Ecuadorian being a Jew. At another table was a black man who’s been married to a jewish woman for 25 years. He’s been coming to services the whole time they’ve been married, but only recently decided to convert. Everyone already thought he was jewish, he knows the prayers in Hebrew and English and lives a jewish life.
I think I keep being introduced to converted women, but I can’t tell. It seems rude to ask–are you talking to me because you converted too? Eventually I decided that I would meet up with my roommate at an improv party across town. I got a ride to the train with a family of Hoosier Hebes.
When we walked into the parking lot, the moon had risen over the lake and the sky was clear. It was stunning and beautiful. I’m feeling really good about this education I’m undertaking, like it is really the right thing to do.