Unlike most people in Hollywood, I was born a Jew. When I lived in Chicago, I used to be Conservative. I’d go to Hebrew school and then sit through a three-hour service, none of which was in English. My mom would have Shabbat dinner every week. Then we moved to South Florida when I was seven and joined a Reform congregation. I went until I was fifteen and we learned the same second-grade stories every year about Moses being found in a basket in the Nile. I told my mom it was a waste of time. Subsequently, I stopped being religious. Although recently I realized that I might not want to hold firm about something as major as religion when I made the decision as an angry teen. After all, so many other things from that time period (driving my dad’s car into our water heater, my bird-claw earring, my mullet) turned out to be tremendous mistakes. So, I looked around for synagogues. One Friday after work, I went down to Sinai Temple, because I’d heard through the jew-vine they have a great young adult service. But I must’ve gotten there on the wrong night, as I was the youngest person in there by a good forty years. It was held in a tiny room with about twenty people.
It was a Conservative service, so it was mostly in Hebrew. I tried to follow along, but even the songs I knew had a weird melody to them. As soon as the service finished, I bolted as fast as I could out of there. I tried a Reform temple near my apartment. And I dragged my curious girlfriend along. Again, except for a kid who was about to be bar mitzvahed, we were the youngest people in there. It was a friendlier service – the rabbi stopped in the midst of his intro so that the congregation could come around and shake hands. And I got some good comedic value when the rabbi would ask questions like “Has everyone here seen a torah before?” eyes boring into my freckle-faced, redheaded, obviously non-Jewish girlfriend (who asked me why a woman wished her “Good scissors” when she walked in). When the service ended, we were beset by every old person in the joint, urging us to join the temple and talk to the rabbi. On the one hand, it felt good to be so popular. On the other, it made me feel like a lump of meat plopped down on the carving table.
I guess other than the super-religious, there aren’t many people my age into Judaism these days. Which is a shame. I can see my entire culture – which lasted thousands of years, gave Western civilization its moral compass, spun off Christianity and Islam, and launched many beautiful traditions – dying out in a few generations if this continues. But I guess I’d rather do something fun on Fridays anyway.
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