I recently found myself in Temple for my friends’ daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.It is at once familiar and strange to me. As a child, I went to shul or school twice a week, but there were no services with them. It was the learning of the language, the history, the tradition, and I loved it. I went with my cousins who were my best friends and neighbors. When we all moved, they to Florida, we to Long Island, I went to a more religious center that I did not like, but was lucky enough to find my old teacher, Mr. Baran and went back to the traditional school that I loved so much.
This recent time in Temple was more enriched by my attending Catholic Mass than any other thing I can think of. I suddenly understood some of the ritual that was never explained to me as a child.
When the Cantor sang, Oh-ya-say-Shalom-bin-romav, I began to sing along. I was amazed to discover that I knew every word, and wished that the song would go on forever because it brought me to a childhood place that I thought was lost.
It reminded me of the High Holidays in Queens. The High Holiday services required tickets. All of us children were left in the parking lot while our parents went in to pray at the multi-hour service. I was one of the older kids at seven or eight.
We stayed on the warm asphalt, playing jump rope and hopscotch in our Saturday best. For a long time I thought I made up this memory, but in talking to my cousins recently they remember it exactly the way that I do, so it must have happened. We were left to our own devices and on occasion someone would come out from the temple and shush us. We had the foresight to look chagrined, but as soon as the doors closed again, we went right back to our playing, eventually getting loud enough for someone else to come out and chastise us.
It was like that every year until we moved.