Saturday, September 26, 2009


Spirituality, community and the high holidays.
              So this post gets a little religioulous, keep reading at your own peril.

           Shanah tovah everyone, even if it is a few days late.  This has been my second Rosh Hashanah as a Jew and my first away from family, friends, and over a million other Jews in close proximity.   Trinidad’s jewish community is very small, there’s no synagogue on the island.   One of the wonderful things about small communities is how tightly knit they are, but sometimes small communities are very insular, and trying to find them can be difficult.   The community in Trini isn’t insular, in fact they are welcoming and friendly, some of the friendliest people on the island. This is a very friendly island.
Finding them was another matter.   There’s no real central organization, contacting them was a challenge..  Like most things in my life though, I trusted in google and was rewarded.  I found this article,, which led me to Sarina’s blog on Caribean Kosher Cooking. Sarina connected me to Barbara, who normally organizes such events in the community.  Barbara is spending/was spending the holidays out of the country though, so she pointed me to Nicholas who introduced us to Sonia for Friday night and opened his home to us on Saturday night. 
              The community reached out to us, and helped us find places to celebrate the high holidays at. We spent the Rosh Hashanah at Local homes, ate dinner, said blessings and performed a few readings.   There were No full services, and this was my first time also missing those as a Jew.

  I learned a few things from this experience.

1.      Services are boring, but I missed not having them. I especially missed hearing the shofar blow.
2.      I need to learn more about customs outside of reform Judiasm, and the prayers that are part of it.
3.      Spirituality and community are not two faces of judiasm, they are intertwined and inseparable. 

During the conversion process, I had a lot of discussions about the culture vs. the spirituality of Judaism.  While treating those as separate entities made understanding simpler, it tended to obfuscate the truth, that spirituality brings community together and community enhances spirituality. 

Okay, Half baked spirituality is coming through, you better watch out. 

Over time I’ve come to believe that god is shaped by our individual beliefs about him/her.  That whatever the higher power is, how we interpret a higher power is more important for our everyday life.  When bringing community together, especially a diverse crowd you get all these different ways of believing in god, in essence you get a form of god for each person in the room.  I find it creates an energy that prayer alone can’t generate, and I find more context and meaning to the blessings.  I think that’s why services feel so meaningful for me sometimes, even if the prayers and songs sometimes feel never ending.   
I’m obviously not the first person to realize this, as many Jewish prayers require a minion, though I think my take has a certain “CA Hippiness to it.”  Plus you are all reading this, so I get to subject you to my mental meanderings.  I also like my interpretation, because it explains why having a people from other religions makes the experience more intense, since they bring even more varied beliefs to the communal table.  I appreciate very much their presence, especially the Catholics, who risk either eternal damnation (according to some grandmothers) or a school bus full of nuns (according to the creators of family guy).

.  There’s more fun travel blogging, maxi taxi’s ultimate Frisbee, beer, and cooking on the way, so I hope I didn’t scare anyone away with my heavy “GOD BLOGGING.”

          Happy 5770 everyone, I hope you have (or had, since Yom kippur has passed since I updated this post) a good, easy and meaningful fast.  Also, a huge thank you to our wonderful hosts for Rosh Hoshanah, you made the holidays warm, welcoming and wonderful for us. 

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