So on a Friday night, I went to the nearest reform synagogue, took a deep breath, and I walked in. I almost left right away because the person greeting me said what I perceived to be a secret code, and I didn’t know the response. (They said, “Shabbat Shalom,” and I responded with a nervous “hi.”) He handed me a book and into the sanctuary I went.
I stepped into the room and looked around. That’s when I remembered something about men and women sitting in different places, and I turned around and went back to the greeter.
“Is there a special place where I’m supposed to sit?”
“Preferably not in a seat where someone is already sitting.”
I smiled and walked back in.
Down towards the front I saw a woman about my age sitting alone, so I asked her if the seat next to her was available. She smiled and welcomed me to join her.
She asked if I’d been to that synagogue before. I told her I this was my first time at any synagogue. She was intrigued, so I told her I was there exploring my options.
She thought that I was brave for coming alone, and she agreed to help me through the service.
Pure luck brought me to a very rare “Ask/Stump the Rabbi” service where people were invited to ask challenging questions. I wasn’t used to being able to question a religious leader, and this was a huge plus in my book.
Thanks to my wonderful guide, I made it through the service without embarrassing either of us. Although there was a meet and greet afterwards (an oneg), I was a bit overwhelmed and went home, pleased with what I saw and for going at all.
Years later I ran into the woman whom I sat next to at a Jewish social event. I thanked her for making my first Jewish experience a positive one. She had no way of knowing what a huge impact her kindness had had. I was glad to be able to share my experience and gratitude with her.
When did you last try something completely new? or Have you ever been able to thank someone years after they did something for you?