Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shabbat with Jewish Friends

I did something new last Friday evening... I went to Shabbat with other Jewish Quakers.

I've been on the Jewish Friends list-serv for a while, and for several years have had vague -- sometimes, even specific -- plans to go to Shabbat hosted by Jewish Friends at FGC Gathering. It never worked out. I am usually exhausted by Friday night, and often go back to my dorm and go to bed after the Friday plenary. Several years, I've had conflicts I couldn't get around -- committees, meetings, etc. -- that foiled my intentions. When I've had mobility limitations, it's been hard to get golf cart rides that late, especially if we were far away from where the plenaries were.

And, I've always felt a little shy about it.

So, we come to this summer's Gathering. I was over-booked going in, and knew it and accepted it, because I was led to do what I was doing. On the other hand, I hadn't had bronchitis when I agreed to all that; so I just accepted an extra level of needing to take care of myself and not exhaust myself. I figured I would not make it to many things I wanted to do this year, including any Jewish Friends events at all.

One Jewish Friend whom I knew from the list, but hadn't met before, talked to me in the dining hall one afternoon and really, really encouraged me to come to Shabbat, just to meet other folks on the list, just for fellowship, if nothing else.

And it wasn't, actually, someone else's pressure on me to add one more thing to my plate: it came across, very clearly, as an invitation to do something nice for myself.

I still felt very shy about it. I'm fairly comfortable on the email list. But Shabbat... My family wasn't religiously observant when it came to Judaism; I was raised culturally half-Jewish. The only time in my life that I can think of when I've done Shabbat was last December, when we were visiting my cousins over the holidays. Oy.

And then my week got really, really hard, with Bonnie's death, and everything else...

I wasn't sure I was doing any evening activities Friday. But Nikki Giovanni was the plenary speaker; and then FLGBTQC's postponed auction was after the plenary, and I needed to be there, with my community.

And Shabbat this year was in the same building as the evening plenary, and next door to the building where the auction was. So, I went.

It was lovely.

I even ended up saying kiddush, the blessing over the wine (sparkling grape juice, in our case, and to my relief).

I need not have been shy. I belonged.

And it was so good to be with my people.

And when I left, I went to the FLGBTQC auction, to be with more of my people.

Brucha at elilah
elohaynu malkat ha’olam
borayt p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Goddess, our Goddess, Queen of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

B’rucha at Shekhinah
b’tocheynu ruach ha’olam
borayt p’ri hagafen.

Blessed are you, Shekhinah, who brings forth the fruit of the vine.

So, this Friday at sundown... Shabbat shalom, and blessed be.


one raised eyebrow said...

Hi Stasa,

Glad you had this great experience!
I am interested in the Jewish Friends listserv. Can I interest you in passing along any info?


Mary Ellen said...

Thanks for posting this, Stasa. I found it very moving - and I don't have any Jewish roots. (I don't imagine there's any Presbyterian-rooted Quaker group, though there are many refugees from many backgrounds in my Meeting). I especially liked the blessing in feminine voice.

sta┼Ťa said...

Abbe, I'll send private email.

Mary Ellen, thanks.

(I think a Presbyterian-rooted group, or, say, a Catholic-rooted one, would be something quite different... Judaism is not merely a religion; it's an entire culture. This is part of why it's possible to be a completely secular Jew - to identify as a Jew, but not be religious as a Jew in any way. I grew up Catholic in terms of religion, half-Jewish culturally, and Pagan in terms of spirituality. My Jewish identity is a completely different kettle of fish than being, say, a former or recovering Catholic. I can't be Catholic any more for religious reasons. I'm not an observant Jew, but I will always be half-Jewish. So this is why I see identification as Jewish Friends as not-quite-analogous to identifying as Catholic Friends, or Catholic-rooted Friends; and I imagine it to be similar with Friends who have Presbyterian roots. I hope I'm making sense/being clear.)