I have to admit, of all the things I would normally do on a Friday night, attending services at a synagogue would not be of them. So how is it that it is exactly where I ended up and in Birmingham, AL of all the places?!
True, I did join the local Jewish Community Center last week, and have been very happy using their gym. I’m also looking forward to participating in their community events and have already signed up to volunteer for their upcoming telephon fundraiser. But for me, going from gym to attending Friday night services is taking one giant leap – what made me jump?
Last week, I was picking up Jasmine (one of the interns at SPC) and noticed that she lives right next to Temple Emanu-El. In the land of churches (aka Alabama), I was astonished to see a synagogue, and this one was incredible stately and beautiful. A row of grand doors stood between me and the inside of the temple. But alas, the doors had no handles, and I could not enter.
Fast forward to this Friday. I drove Jasmine home (poor girl doesn’t have a car), and as we were walking pass the synagogue, I wondered whether they were holding Friday services. The thought of coming in did cross my mind, somewhat briefly, but once again, I couldn’t find a way in. That’s when Jasmine and I saw a group of students walking toward the synagogue – turns out there was a back entry, and so we went in.
The main hall where the services were held is breathtaking. The building must have been a church at some point. High ceilings, stained glass, very comfortable benches (ok, maybe this part has been recently renovated). I was relieved that the service was true to the reform nature – mostly in English, with beautiful singing, and a family atmosphere. I have to say though, besides some children, I must’ve been one of the youngest people present – the Jewish youth of Birmingham must be doing something else on Friday.
All in all, it was a peaceful way to spend an hour. The songs were both happy and thoughtful, and I did feel as a part of a small community. I am not sure how soon I’ll be back, but I am certainly happy to have discovered the entry to this place.