To some extent, the nature of Judaism very well may appear to be a smorgasbord of various beliefs, practices, and minchagim (customs). Nowhere is this more clear to me, than at the shul (place of worship) that I frequent on Shabbos and yom tov, as well as other, holidays. Where I live, a lot of out of town Jewish visitors show up, especially for yom tov.
Inasmuch that I became an observant Jew in 2005, I took upon myself as a ba’al teshuvah, specific modes of yiddishkeit, based upon what I learned from others. Moreover, about twelve years later, I learned that my grandfather was a Chassidic rabbi. Thus, through my lineage, I am a Bolechover chasid, my ancestors on the paternal side of my family, being from Bolechov, Poland.
So, I prefer not to conform, nor model my sense of Yiddishkeit, roughly translated as “things Jewish,” after the type of Chassidism being promoted where I attend services.
To make matters more complicated for me, when observant Jews from out of town visit, any sense of “localness” dissipates into the mountain air, as the priorities of the visitors seem to supersede the local congregation. Case in point, when I facilitated the yizkor service on the second day of Shavuos, one of the visitors, who was holding the Torah, as required during the Yizkor (memorial) service, took it upon himself to start without me.
Mind you, I was standing on the bimah, in the middle of the sanctuary, and hadn’t yet even opened the Yizkor book. Instead of beginning the service anew, with an opening paragraph in English, I picked up where he left off, by abruptly reciting the same prayer in English that he had recited in Hebrew. This dueling for control of the service continued, whereas I was in a position that required assertion on the one hand, without offending the visitor on the other hand.
Was there a misunderstanding, whereas he felt responsibility for leading the service, because he was holding the Torah? To some extent, I showed deference to him, even though I was designated to lead the yizkor service, and had been doing so since the fall holidays. Yet, it seems at times that some visitors would like to run things according to their own ways, irrespective of showing respect to the place where they are visiting. Not that I mean to make a generalization; however, this does seem par for the course, based on various other observations I’ve made over the years.
I absolutely have no sense of belongingness where I attend shul, because if it ever had been about the local congregation, it no longer is. True, the local congregation dwindled significantly after the pandemic began to proliferate; so, there are a number of extenuating circumstances, that compel those in charge to focus on out of towners. Nor, do I have anything against out of town visitors, because I am always fascinated by the Chasidim from Borough Park and elsewhere that visit.
However, I feel as if I stand alone amidst K’lal Yisrael, in a variegated melting pot, that never truly coalesces. No sense of community, like I would ideally envision for a congregation. Not that any congregation would be ideal, anyway, especially, because I am somewhat unique in the values that I would emphasize as crucial to a communal sense of worship, and spiritual growth. Only H’Shem knows, what the future holds for me, or this congregation.