31 August 2011

Here we go again (Forward article "Conservative Synagogues Crack Open Door to Intermarried Families")

A Shefanik posted the link to this Forward article, "Conservative Synagogues Crack Open Door to Intermarried Families: Movement Seeks Balance Between Tradition and Greater Openness."

As Sam says to Frodo in Mordor, "We've been here before!!!"


I'll see if I have more to say later on, but for now: noted, read, made one comment I couldn't keep myself from, and on we go. This is so old hat already...

03 August 2011

Musings of a Minyan(marginal?) Mom: The View from My Side of the Stroller

The comments below emerge from an email conversation in which I said I was "feeling a little distant from the Minyan these days" (the Minyan = the lay-led service that made us decide to join our current synagogue and live within walking distance of it rather than somewhere else) and I was asked to say why. Well, I did... and I ended up saying a lot more than I planned. So I thought I would share it here, as a snapshot from baby S.'s Minyan(marginal?) mom. I don't mean to imply that I have it so hard -- I know I'm lucky to be in the Jewish community that I have, and for there to be age-appropriate options for S. to enjoy at the synagogue's Tot Shabbat almost every week -- but even so, it's a big transition from what Life Before Baby, or even Before Toddlerdom, looked like:

It's a big change for someone who used to be in Minyan services pretty much every week, for up to two hours, to now spend something more like 20 or 30 minutes there every 2 or 3 or 4 weeks. There are many weeks that I don't even set foot in the Minyan: we walk 40 minutes to shul, we go to Tot Shabbat and/or S. runs around, and then we go to kiddush (usually for a long time, thankfully--S. can eat and run around, and we get to socialize a bit when she's tethered to a high chair or her path takes us near folks we'd like to talk to!). If one of us is davening or leyning -- which on the one hand we like to do, used to do with regularity, and kept us more connected to the community -- then the other one MAY try to bring S. in to the Minyan for part of it... but she may just run back out, or prefer to be in Tot Shabbat, and so instead of "let's all be at the Minyan" it's "divide and conquer -- you here, me there."

A lot of things changed when S. was born, but I may well have been in services more when she was an infant (and could be toted in if she was sleeping, or awake and not squalling, which could be a significant chunk of time) than now that she's a toddler. When she's older, there may again be a time that we're all able to spend more time in the Minyan together -- but with the current setup & her current age/stage, that time is not right now. And that makes me feel distant. I look at the emails (which is something), but I don't have a direct experience of what folks' davening or leyning was like on a given week, or who had an aliyah, or what the d'var was about...

I've had years of experience with the Minyan (and with other lay-led minyanim for the past 15 years), so I certainly still have thoughts about the kinds of matters we're discussing now. But was I there to see [a change in the davening space set-up that someone recently] tried out? No. Could I make a special effort to be present if we're trying something new? Sure. (I did make sure we got over to the Minyan when the cantor candidate was leading P'sukei D'Zimra -- though we still weren't able to get there at the very beginning -- and let me tell you, it was really nice to be in shul for PdZ and Shacharit for once! But it's not easy...) So I'm a lot less connected on a week-to-week basis than I used to be.

Tot Shabbat is where I spend the majority of my in-shul in-a-service time -- even if it's mainly Minyan folks plus Tot Shabbat families that we socialize with at kiddush. Outside of Havurah, when it's happening, is where I've usually parked myself when S.'s fallen asleep on the way to shul & I want her to stay asleep -- because I can sit on the bench outside the library or lurk in the library doorway and still hear/be some part of what's going on without the sound from inside running the risk of waking her up (which is not the case w/the Kogod, where noisy older children have woken her up pretty much every time that we've tried sitting on the benches there; if I bring her in to services in the Kogod or the Gewirz [= different places for holding services in the synagogue], which I do sometimes risk, then she may well wake up when there's a sudden change of volume [a constant buzz of davening/leyning isn't such a problem] -- from the silence before the d'var to someone beginning to speak, or the sound of her father beginning to leyn).

But at least I'm IN the shul building pretty much every Shabbat that we're in town (except last week, when S. had tested positive for strep and we had to keep her away from other little people until 24 hrs after the first dose of antibiotic!) -- because even with 80 minutes of walking to get to & from shul, in all kinds of weather, it's worth it to be there for about 2 or 3 hours of a little davening of some sort (mostly in Tot Shabbat), a lot of running around, and some socializing with shul friends from Minyan, Tot Shabbat families, Havurah, etc. -- rather than being trapped in the house with an active toddler! ;)

So that's my cri de coeur. It is what it is. Not saying there's too much the Minyan can do about the situation that obtains (though being in the Gewirz more would help), but just giving you the view from my side of the stroller...