Judaism and Ice Cream

December 10, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Judaism, Opinion piece | 1 Comment

What do Judaism and ice cream have in common? Ice cream comes in almost any flavor you can think of and as this article in the New York Times demonstrates, services also come in different flavors, especially if you are lucky enough to live in a large city. Reading this article made me think back to when I first started going to services regularly in New York City. First, a little background: The only times I went to shul when I was a kid were during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Imagine being in a building where you are one of the youngest people there and reciting prayers that have little, if any, meaning to you. You might think that I would have an intense dislike of  synagogue and at one point, I really did. Moving to a new city gave me the opportunity to go to Jewish events and see what I had been missing out on.

I started going to the beginner/intermediate services at Aish Hatorah 5 years ago. There was separate seating for men and women and most of the service was conducted in Hebrew; asking questions was encouraged, particularly in the part of the service where the Torah portion is read. I also started learning at Aish during the week and made some very good friends that I still keep in touch with today. It was the first time that I saw Judaism as having meaning in my everyday life and not just something I acknowledge only during holidays.

I also went to services at Reform and Conservative shuls; one time it was for a bat mitzvah; other times I went with friends or on my own. When I went to the Reform shuls, I felt like I was in church with all the organ music. It was very disorienting. I also tried services at a popular West side synagogue known for their music; while their services did not appeal to me, I have gone back a couple times for concerts.

I identify and connect the most with Orthodox services. I like the separate seating, it just reinforces that you come to synagogue to connect with G-d. Afterwards, it’s time to socialize : ). However, I understand that not everyone feels the same way. For those who are uncomfortable with Orthodox services, I feel that it’s better to go to a non-Orthodox service and truly connect with Judaism rather than go to Orthodox services and resent the whole thing or worse yet, not having any connection with Judaism.

What kind of services do I go to? I go to intermediate services at my shul, there is a nice crowd of 30-40 people that show up, sometimes more if there is a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah going on. They are very similar to the Aish services I started going to. When I am visiting my parents on the weekend, I do go to the shul I mentioned in the first paragraph. I still am one of the youngest people there, 3 rabbis have moved to the area in the past 3-4 years and they have brought new life to the shul. I am very friendly with one of the rabbis in particular and have shared many Shabbas and holiday meals with him and his family.

I can’t get ice cream out of my head now. Here are my attempts at analogies:

Traditional Orthodox services: vanilla ice cream

Carlebach services: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Phood

Anyone want to try?


1 Comment »

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  1. Interesting take. I have never thought of Judaism in terms of ice cream. I pray Yemenite Baladi, and I wouldn’t even know how to describe it in terms of ice cream. I will have to think about that one.

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