I am a gentile, and I want to worship in a synagogue. I heard that only Reform Judaism teaches in English. That is important to me because I don't know Hebrew (yet). Should I ask permission before I attend? I don't want to offend anyone. I am now reading a Jewish Torah and commentary "Etz Hayim" and I LOVE it! That is why I want to worship with you! :) I want to know more and get closer to G-d. Thank you for your help Bless you.
You should attend a synagogue and be honest. Most (if not all) synagogues are welcoming places. After you visit, be in touch with the rabbi and let him/her know that you attended. Hopefully, this rabbi will reach out to you and set up a meeting with you. There is a tradition in the Talmud to (gently) encourage the potential convert to rethink his/her position, however, when this is brought up, it is usually done politely with knowledge of the tradition already taught. If you do not intend to convert, you may be asked to think about your intentions.
Good luck finding a congregation and a rabbi with whom you feel comfortable!
It is hard for me to answer such a question and I need more details. Why do you want to worship in a synagogue? Is it because you want to convert? I would suggest that you meet the rabbi and introduce yourself. He will be able to direct you.
Your enthusiasm and passion for Judaism is moving. Judaism, as you are discovering, is a meaningful and wise tradition; I think I can speak for my colleagues across the denominations in saying that we welcome your interest.
It is a longstanding Jewish tradition that in the synagogue there is a light above the ark that is kept on continuously. This Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) reminds us of the menorah (candelabra) described in Exodus 27 but it also signifies that the synagogue is a place where, as they used to say in the Motel 6 commercials, “we’ll leave the light on for ya.’” In other words, the synagogue is a place open to all whenever they need it.
Most synagogue services are open to anyone who wishes to attend and we strive to be like our ancestor Abraham who welcomed every stranger who approached him. I strongly suggest that you visit several synagogues of varying denominations in your area. You don’t need permission, but it doesn’t hurt to call ahead to find out more about the synagogue and its services. For security reasons, some synagogues are cautious about visitors. If you let them know you are coming, they’ll be more likely to reach out to you. Either way, you should definitely introduce yourself to the rabbi and anyone else who looks friendly.
While it’s true that Reform synagogues tend to use more English in their services, virtually all synagogues will have prayer books with translation and some may even provide a transliterated prayer book (with the Hebrew written phonetically in English letters).
The other recommendation I have is that you should find out more about classes that are available in your area. Many communities offer an “Introduction to Judaism” course for those exploring Judaism for the first time. There are also a number of wonderful books out there to get your started. A local rabbi or Intro to Judaism class can point you in the right direction.
Welcome to the Jewish community. While all of the denominations of Judaism welcome people curious about Judaism, you will most probably be more comfortable in a Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist congregation. All classes, including a course organized by the Union for Reform Judaism and taught at Reform synagogues all over the country called Introduction to Judaism, are taught in English, with all the readings in English. These classes are designed for people interested in learning about Judaism or potentially interested in conversion. To find a class near you go to www. URJ.org.
You will also be welcome with no cost at all services in every synagogue except Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur which requires tickets in most synagogues. My recommendation is that you begin to go to Friday night or Saturday morning prayer services at a Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist congregation near you. The services will be primarily in Hebrew ; don’t worry that you won’t understand. It is not about the words, but about the music, the experience, and the opportunity to unplug from the concerns of the week. Few of the Jews in the congregation actually understand the words. Most synagogues use a prayer book that includes an English translation so you can see the translations, but you might find the poetry and meditations that are included in most prayer books will enhance the experience of the prayer more than a literal translation. For many people prayer is not an intellectual experience that requires understanding of each word but rather a spiritual experience of transcendence that unfolds from a combination of music, community and your own open heart.
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