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November 07, 2003 - Image 101

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-11-07

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4-ven the o riiil%

45

hnOW eatiO

etious %atm.!

LEGACY from page 75

1942, Ramath Orah, Hebrew for
"Light on the Hill," is a paean to the
city of Luxembourg. ("Lux" is the
Latin word for light, and "bourg"
means hill in German.) However, by
the 1980s, the synagogue had fallen
into such disrepair, it was nicknamed
the "mildew shul."
For Goldman, Ramath Orah was a
reminder of the Orthodox Judaism of
his childhood — a time when
"Orthodoxy was a big tent, an identi-
ty, not an absolute list of behaviors."
"This was before the arrival of two
countervailing trends in American
Judaism," -he writes. "In the next
generation, Orthodoxy would begin
to move sharply to the right, pow-
ered by a wave of fervently
Orthodox Eastern European refugees
from Hitler's Europe."
Goldman felt this division person-
ally and sharply as the obligation to
say Kaddish led him to other
minyanim. Praying in different syna-
gogues can sometimes feel like cross-
ing the border into another country.
Each minyan has its own customs
and dialects.
As a woman, I felt this most
keenly when I ventured away from
my Conservative egalitarian minyan
to say Kaddish in a modern
American Orthodox synagogue and
in a more traditional European syn-
agogue in Rome. By Orthodox stan-
dards, women are not required to
say Kaddish; my presence and
determination to say it were met
with varying degrees of acceptance,
indifference or contempt.
Goldman briefly touches on the
subject in a conversation he has
with a fellow minyan participant
whom he calls Laid. He asks Lani if
she is frustrated that she is not
counted in a minyan.
She replies that she has "a tremen-
dous reverence for Halachah, or
Jewish law, and has found no reason
to question its wisdom in relieving
women of the responsibility of partic-
ipating in a minyan.
My own experience of sitting
behind a mechitzah --- the curtain or
divider that separates men from
women in Orthodox synagogues —
was lonelier and more frustrating.
But as Goldman so eloquently and
candidly records, even men in tradi-
tional minyanim are not immune
from feelings of alienation.
On vacation in upstate New York,
he attends Chasidic services in the
village of Kiryas Joel and ultra-

Vidge,

73

Orthodox services on the grounds of
a summer camp. Both options are
problematic for Goldman in that
they collide with his modern sensibil-
ides as well as his appreciation of
kabah or community.
"I never felt at home at any of [the
minyanim]," he writes. "They
reminded me that while I call myself
Orthodox, Orthodoxy as a whole ;has
moved relentlessly to the right. My
shul, Ramath Orah, is an anomaly
stuck in time — the 1950s perhaps
— when Orthodoxy was more open
and tolerant.
"Much of contemporary Orthodoxy
was no longer willing to engage the
modern secular world. I prided myself
on being able to live in bob: worlds
— the Orthodox and the seer. The
Orthodoxy in Monroe,
said that this was no longer Fa&
that one had to choose one or the
other. ... It was a rude awakening.
Goldman's encounter with ultra-
Orthodoxy was yet another way in
which he engaged with the past and
present through Kaddish.
Remembering his father enabled
him to concentrate on his ongoing
commitment to his faith, some-
thing with which he poignantly
admits he struggles.
Kaddish embodies that struggle.
Here is a prayer solely focusing on
praising God that must be recited
at a time when one's faith in God is
sorely tested.
Goldman illuminates many of
these contradictions and ambigui-
ties in his lovely and moving
account of his Kaddish year. ❑

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