Monday, September 06, 2010

A Wake-Up Call

(X-posted to Too Cool for Shul)

Shiksa Girlfriend and I had a talk recently where she said she was bummed out that we had let our synagogue attendance drop so dramatically. There were lots of reasons for this: she had been unemployed for eight months (yay new employment!), both of us had been stretched kind of thin emotionally and psychologically, and, to be honest, neither of us is all that social (me especially). She said she understood all that, but that she needs to feel like we're a little more part of a community, and that I'm frankly not helping. Specifically, she thinks my shul standards are too high.

I said that it was hard for me; that my parents weren't really joiners and that we weren't raised to be joiners, and that social/group dynamics have never really been my thing, partially because I never really needed to work at it. If I didn't want to be a part of something, I didn't have to. Which meant that I didn't bother.

She said that was all well and good but that if we go around expecting perfection out of every social interaction, especially in a Jewish context, that we'll never get a chance to find people that we do click with. I said that it felt like we had seen what our options were, and none felt quite right-- Evil Minion had great enthusiasm, but felt cliquey and awkward as soon as services were over. Beth Elderly had the exact opposite problem; they had so few new (or young) members that we felt like people were incapable of A- giving us some space to settle in, or B- not projecting various images of Young Adult Leadership TM on us. At this point I would feel guilty going back there simply because they gave us a trial membership for High Holidays and then we never went back after. They're probably still scratching their heads over it.

In a really interesting development, she also said that if this thing isn't resolved by the time we have kids, she will basically look for another community identity to raise them in (probably Unitarian Universalism, but maybe super-low-key cultural Christianity).


At first I was a little shocked at what felt like a trump card or low blow, but I realized that I should really have been thankful of how honest and direct she was being. She wants to share this Jewish thing with me, but I can't really expect her to be the leader when she isn't even Jewish. And unfortunately I'm not really knowledgeable (or comfortable) enough to stand alone or go trailblazing ahead, foraging into the tall grasslands of Jewish community.

So we compromised. We will be doing more shul visits this year. When SG's schedule gets ironed out, we will try to include more Saturday visits into the mix (which will also be a good way to get a fresh look at the different shuls in town). We've already made arrangements for High Holidays at Temple GLBT. This will be our first holidays with them.

Four years of High Holidays in four different shuls. I wonder if it's us? Or them? Or both.


Anonymous said...

Maybe 6 of one and half a dozen of the other. It really does take some time to establish yourself in a Jewish community. Visiting is a good thing, it will give you the opportunity to see how different congregations behave. I don't think any of them will fit right off the bat. They need to get to know you, and you need to get to know them. In time, you find your niche. It took me a couple of years in my home congregation, and I thought they were welcoming from the beginning.

rejewvenator said...

My wife and I had a similar conversation, sans the Christian identity bit. Basically, it was "we better find a shul and community we can raise a family in, or we better re-think the kind of family we're trying to raise." But the NSW (non-shiksa wife) isn't much for meeting new people, and I'm a professional Jew, which makes being a social Jew on the weekends not so necessary for my own Jewish identity (and being a sleeping Jew far more appealing!) We ended up in the same place you did. Committing to more time at shul, and more relationships with the people in it.