by Sharon Garber, Adath Congregant
I admit it – I was a skeptic and non-believer. Ever since I started attending the SPA service in the library, I felt there was something different about this experience, unlike any service I had previously attended.
I tend to fidget after just a few minutes of a typical service and plan a quick escape route.
I first attended SPA because I thought my out-of-town guest might enjoy it. He did, but the big surprise was that I did too; enough to return almost every month since that first experience. I’ve even invited others to attend who have since become regulars despite the fact that they had not walked into any synagogue for a very long time. The cozy space in the library with a beautiful view out the window provided the perfect setting to match the vibrancy of the service. Over the year or so of services, I bounced to the music during snappy tunes and swayed gently to the slower melodic ones.
I knew that the service was getting more and more crowded each month, spilling out of the library into the hallway, but chafed at the thought of moving out of the warmth of the library. So, when I strolled into the library last week and was re-directed into the small chapel, I took a quick intake of breath and made my way down the hall. I first sat with my husband several rows from the front, a typical place for me to sit in that venue. But, even before the service started, I felt too isolated and we moved much closer to Rabbi Weininger and the beautiful music provided by Nancy Krawetz and EB Barnard.
Rabbi Weininger reminded me that I had told him I like to dance and gave me an early warning that there was now plenty of space to let go as the spirit moved me. As the service began, I looked at the stained glass windows, which, though beautiful, unfortunately blocked my view of nature, but I soon fell into the rhythm of the service. The music began to carry me, but the real excitement started when Rabbi Weininger asked me to join him in a snake dance around the chapel, which rapidly became a python dance as several others joined in. The swinging between a meditative state during quiet times and exercise during the vibrant ones was intoxicating. I even got a bit of nature when a tiny ladybug landed on my sleeve, a fit replacement for the window view.
I was starting to think that this space might work after all as we prepared for the last prayer of the service, when I typically close my eyes and feel the closeness of the community in the room. But, this time, at Rabbi Weninger’s suggestion, we all stood and came closer together. As the music began and we started chanting, the entire room coalesced into long lines of people with their arms around each other, swaying to the tune. I opened my eyes long enough to view this amazing sight and then closed them again, as the spirituality of the experience swept over me and my skepticism about both the venue and the pull of a community service seeped out of the window.
Adath clergy, staff and congregants share