In which faith correspondent Lucy Sun finds tradition, and updates it.
The Shabbat service at B’nai Jeshurun has already begun. “Shabbat is the place where we dare to dream,” the rabbi says of the Jewish day of rest. “We meet the angels halfway.”
The music begins with a motley mix of instruments–cello, bongos, acoustic guitar and flute. The sound is a blend of the earthy and the ethereal–grounded, yet striving towards heaven, going to meet the angels halfway.
During the very first song, members of the congregation are leaving their seats, running to hold hands with one another and dance in a circle. The rabbi keeps the rhythm with his palm beating the lectern. The song ends and the congregation sits down, the room still full of joy.
It’s a conservative service, composed almost entirely of music in Hebrew. A regular at B’nai Jeshurun tells me that ï¿½the services are conservative, but the politics are reform.ï¿½ As the service comes to an end, the smells of Shabbat dinner drift into the room. The rabbi asks, “How many of you are smelling the food from downstairs?” The congregation grins. “As I am smelling the food, I think, this must be how homeless people feel all the time,” says the rabbi.
After the service, I wander the streets with a group of Columbia Jews, looking for supplies for the traditional Shabbat blessings over food and wine. We walk eight blocks, expecting to find challah bread at Zabarï¿½s, but the place is closed. There’s an H&H next door. “I feel like bagels are made with Jews in mind,” someone suggests, but the group isn’t having it. (For the record, we finally got our challah at Westside).
Eventually, everyone’s chipped in for the bread and a bottle of pinot grigio, and we’re settling into a room in Carman, feeling sketchy and pious at the same time. The blessing is performed, and we eat and drink. “I feel kind of alcoholic, drinking wine out of a plastic cup,” someone says. Yet tradition lives on.
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