September 25, 2004

Yom Kippur

Today is the day of atonement and boy did I atone. Jon and I went to services this morning at our local synagogue in Astoria through my bad hangover. Don't look so surprised. Amidst the overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox and Muslim population of my neighborhood, there exists a Jewish congregation on Crescent Street called The Astoria Center of Israel.


Last night, I convinced young Sarah to leave her borough for a second night a row. Once in Astoria, we had difficulty deciding what to do. It's always very exciting when a friend visits your house for the first time. I wanted to show her all my stuff and she wanted to see it. After a tour of our movie collection (Jon's and mine) we decided to watch a movie. I wanted to show Sarah A Star is Born, starring James Mason and Judy Garland. That got boring really quick. There is a feature before the movie, of the premiere for A Star is Born. Quite a large number of stars were brought up to a podium to be interviewed before the movie started. They basically all said the same thing - that they were looking forward to seeing the movie. Stars interviewed include Liberace and his mother, Ricky and Lucy, Janet Leigh and some guy. Then after getting through that interminable pre-movie feature, the movie opens with a premiere, which was just as long and winding as the one before the movie. BORING!!! We were too antsy for that.

So then we tried to watch a movie starring Judy Garland where she was a lot more innocent, because in A Star is Born she was quite boozy and over the edge and a little too thin. So we put in The Wizard of Oz, which is absolutely on my list of favorite films. We made it all the way "out of the woods" to the gates of the Emerald City. Maybe we have just seen the movie too many times, because we turned it off and moved on to something else. That something else was hanging out with my neighbors until 3 in the morning. Hanging out in this case is synonymous with drinking gin with key lime juice and gin with cassis.

That is why when I woke up this morning at 9 to attend services with Jon, my head felt as heavy as a led zeppelin. Jon was already ready to go by the time I awoke but I managed to throw together a nice outfit in 5 minutes or less. We were off to services.

We got there 15 minutes into the service so we didn't miss too much. Everything was going swimmingly. Granted the songs were unfamiliar to me, but that happens when you go to a new temple, except in the case of the prayers surrounding the torah ceremonies. Usually those songs are the same from temple to temple. We were sitting in the back, under this overhang, when everyone rose for the removal of the torah for ceremonial march around the temple (giving everyone an opportunity to kiss it) and then the reading. That is one of my favorite songs. It's the Kee Meetzi-ohn and it's quite a lovely tune, quite enjoyable to sing along with. Being under the overhang, we didn't know that above us was an organist and a choir being led by the cantor from below.

Well, that killed it for me. How do you sing along with opera singers that are butchering your favorite prayer? The answer is you don't. We left shortly after the torah was replaced, just before the Amidah service.

The moral of this story is that organs, choirs and synagogues don't mix. If I wanted to go to church, I would go to church.

It was jarring.

After the services, I came home and slept until 7:30, pretty much giving the day over to my endless need for sleep.

Please write to me about your own Yom Kippur experiences and your views about attending synagogue as an adult as it compares with your childhood experiences. You can send those to or comment below.

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