By Amelia Tarallo
Part of living in any community revolves around understanding and celebrating the differences in religion, belief and culture of one’s neighbors. But the chances to explore these different cultures - and particularly faiths - is often limited.
Enter Faithful Women in Action, who have organized an opportunity to introduce their fellow Westwood residents to their neighbors’ faiths. During November, the town is being invited to participate in four different religious services as a way to better understand and appreciate their community. This first one happened at Temple Beth David last Friday, November 8.
When visitors entered Temple Beth David, a Reform Jewish congregation, they were invited into the main room and offered a copy of the siddur to follow along during services. Outside of the doors was a basket of kippahs - also known as yarmulkes - for male visitors to wear during the services.
Services were led by Rabbis Karen S. Citrin and Micah J. Citrin. “Why does he have a guitar?” one visitor whispered to her partner. Everyone visiting soon discovered that the services at Temple Beth David were a lot more musical than they expected. Along with the music, the two rabbis took the time to explain each part of their services, as well as providing English translations for their non-Hebrew reading guests.
Before they ended services, Rabbi Karen and Rabbi Micah took the time to answer any questions their visitors may have about their services. One person inquired about the length of the Torah - that is, a scroll containing the first five books of the Hebrew Bible - after hearing that they had just started at the beginning again following Yom Kippur. Rabbi Karen and Rabbi Micah shocked them with the answer: the Torah was long enough to wrap around the room, go through the banquet hall, and onward.
Another curious individual asked if everyone read the same parts of the Torah at the same time, since it takes a year to read. Along with Rabbi Karen and Rabbi Micah, a regular Temple-goer gave an answer: no, not always. Along with this question came another helpful explanation from Rabbi Karen. There isn’t only one way to read the Torah, and there are usually several different interpretations for just one section of the sacred text.
The service at Temple Beth David represented the first in Faithful Women in Action’s series, with an additional one coming two days later at First Parish of Westwood, UCC. In the coming weeks, Faithful Women in Action will sponsor more interfaith services to encourage further exploration into the religious communities of Westwood. The next interfaith service will occur this Sunday, November 17, at the First Baptist Church in Westwood. An interfaith Thanksgiving service, also hosted at First Baptist Church, will follow on Monday, November 25.