Saturday, July 23, 2011

Potato Kugel, Plum Cake and perceptions of Who is What.w

I woke up to a chilly, rainy morning today but eagerly dressed appropriately, in anticipation of my first Shabbos service here in Budapest. I had already scouted out the synagogue and knew what time services would begin so I wouldnt have a rerun of last weeks foul up. The shul I planned to attend is one of the great Triangle of Synagogues in the old city. It is the old Kazynczy Street Synagogue around the corner from me.

As I walked through the drizzle, I felt like the rain was washing away a lot of the old feeling of stigma of being Jewish here.There were 2 kosher restaurants flanking the main sanctuary which prepared prepaid meals for Shabbos and even if the street repair crew did stare curiously,at least it was accompanied by a nod of the head.( and did I detect the hint of a smile?)

As I entered the door way that was indicated as the women's entrance, I found myself In a grey cylindrical vault filled with concrete stairs leading up to the womens section. As I was determined to speak with the Master of the Universe, in his house today, I put one foot in front of the other and begun to climb. The first two flights of stairs led to two more which
led to the women's balcony. After tripping down an unmarked step in the dimly light foyer, I
finally took a seat and while catching my breathe began to follow the Torah service. I had my own Siddur and began to fall into a warm and welcome rapture that I often sense when having private intimate communication with my maker. I was happy that I had struggled up the stairs because what waited for me there was worth struggling for. Although hugh inside, (there were two additional balconies above where I sat looking down at the tapestry of shtreimels, baseball caps and black hats) Kazinczy is reminiscent in feeling of my bubbys corner shteible in South Philly. Its safe and familiar and I belong here. I know the tunes and the melodies connect me in ways I feel viscerally, to a past that lives in my communal memory and a future that I am committed to preserving for my children's children Here the ceiling and walls were painted in muted fading colors in tablecloth patterns that are symbols of the ancient and contemporary history of my ancient and eternal people.
So it was all good until I slowly and carefully retraced the four flights of concrete stairs in the ivory tower into the courtyard on my way to kiddush. A young man in a guards uniform came up to me and asked me if I came to pray. I told him I had and thanked him. He then followed me and told me I couldn't pray here because I was carrying a bag. I thought he figured me for a terrorist and offered to allow him to search my small bag which had my house
key in it. He then advised me that he knew Jews don't carry a bag on Shabbos, the implication seeming to be that since I was doing what Jews don't do I wasn't Jewish. Or maybe just not Jewish enough for him! This guard then consulted with an 8 or 9 year old little boy in a shtreimel and payes who told him that it looked like they couldn't get my prayers undone so I could go
on into the kiddush, which I graciously declined to do. After all if they didn't think I merited praying with them, they would certainly begrudge me their potato kugel.

I left and walked over to Jasons. We went to spend Shabbos afternoon with the kids at Gabriellas mom's lovely home and I ate and got the recipe for THE best Hungarian plum upside down cake I have ever eaten. It was again a wonderful Shabbos with my children but I was sad to experience such sinat chinam and lack of hospitality from people who should know better. During these three weeks if that's the best that some of us can do for achdut, the rest of us will have to carry more of the load. be kind when you don't feel like it and just keep perfecting your Ahavat Yisroel. Maybe this time we can get it right and all of us can know we contributed to building a dwelling place for God in our midst
I wasn't going back there anyway because I prefer my mechitzahs on a level playing field, but after spending Shabbos here I will certainly seek out a Chabad next week where even if I'm not perfect I am welcomed home.

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