The Worthy Jews of Timisoara

Friday night in Timisoara, Romania, the group went to a Shabbat service in the Jewish Community Center. The shul was in a tiny, cramped, musty room that looked like it had not changed since 1914. Men and women sat separately and there was an organ in the corner. It was this odd collision of worlds and traditions that my North American, Conservodox upbringing simply did not understand. 

Kabalat Shabbat is a very spiritual service for me that I look forward to all week, yet in that synagogue, in the middle of Romania, I simply wasn't feeling it. We were skipping prayers, the melodies were foreign to me, and let's just say, the organ player was no great talent.  In the middle of the service, everyone stood up and together we recited the shema, the prayer which declares that G-d is one. It was an incredibly powerful moment. For the rest of the service, all I could think of was  the universality and strength of the Jewish people. In a foreign place that knew the greatest tragedy to the Jewish people, the Holocaust, and with its own distinct traditions and customs, a community survived and preserved its voice, reciting the ancient Jewish prayer together at a Friday night service in 2013.  In Timisoara, Romania, I was able to pray with just as much access to G-d as in Jerusalem or Austin, TX.  

I later found out that the service was conducted in the Neolog tradition, a movement mixing Conservative and Reformed traditions that is popular in European communities. My conception of world Jewry has been almost exclusively defined by my experience being a part of North American Jewish communities and Israel, yet in so many other places around the world, there are communities just as Jewish, saying the shema together on Friday night. This realization was very powerful for me. Moving forward, I want to invest my efforts in educating myself and my own community on Jewish communities around the world that are just as worthy of our attention as Israel or our own. 
My trip to Hungary and Romania proved the depth and great reach of the Jewish people.  2014 Texas Hillel Alternative Spring Break to Turkey, anyone?
-Tracy Frydberg


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March 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM




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