An unaffiliated, unconfident Jew and a former Catholic, Jew-by-choice walk into a church and hear the rabbi say…
You’re expecting a punch line now right? But there isn’t one. This isn’t the beginning of a joke but the start of our immersion into the community of Romemu. Here is what the Rabbi says that tells us we are in the right place.
1. Welcome. Whether or not you’re Jewish, observant, or believe in God; whether you’re straight, gay, bi, trans, queer; whatever your race, your status, or level of commitment—you are welcome at Romemu. For our family, which falls within so many of these categories, there was no more important message for us to receive.
2. Introduce yourself. Romemu was already a thriving community when we arrived, but it didn’t take many hellos before we could no longer recall our first one. We are an introvert and an independent, but the community of Romemu has insisted that we use our voices.
3. Sing, clap, dance. Now sing louder, clap harder, dance faster. And laugh. Even Yom Kippur can be a time of joy, the rabbi says. Has this ever been said before?
4. Let me tell you a story. It could be one of the rabbi’s own, one from the Torah, a Chasidic tale, or a myth from another culture. Story is what moves us beyond the walls of the sanctuary or classroom. It is where we find ourselves.
5. Change your seat. If you are always viewing the world from only one perspective, you will never know what other people see or what else there is to be seen. Changing your perspective is how we move from judgement to compassion.
6. Compassion is holding as many sides of the truth as you can hold. Perhaps this should be a bumper sticker. It should be remembered every day.
7. Look up. There are times when we get to know our feet too well and our world gets very small. Looking down equates with fear. Looking up, we see it all—the beauty, the ugliness, the way we are going, the way we’d rather go, the way we didn’t even know existed.
8. Breathe. Feet on floor. Hands in lap. Eyes closed or softened. These are familiar instructions outside of shul and so welcome inside. To pause, without words. To let the echo of the music and the prayer settle within us. To be enriched by the traditions of others.
9. I have searched like you; I am searching still. These words, perhaps not spoken, are part of the rabbi’s story. A guide who has discovered it all, who can no longer find mystery, cannot lead others on their own search. That guide is limited by what they can see. Everyone at Romemu is seeking, sharing their “aha” moments before starting out again.
10. Religion can’t be just prayers and thoughts. We are writing this the day after yet another slaughter which resulted in the murder of seventeen people in Florida. Prayers are once again being offered. At Romemu, though, prayer is not a passive act, it is a searching of the heart to discover what to do, not just say.
The door closes behind us. We stay. We will hear the voices of many more sages—other rabbis, teachers, writers, philosophers, artists, our fellow congregants. It feels as if we have always been here.