Shabbat at LimmudNY

OR: Tales of a Postdenominational Jew at a Postdenominational Conference.

This is my first year at LimmudNY, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. One thing I knew, though–with the multiplicity of Shabbat prayer choices–traditional egalitarian, Sephardic, Shira Chadasha style, mechitzah non-egalitarian, meditative, instrumental, yoga-infused–this was my chance to explore the unknown.

To try things that weren’t available–or at least not to me–back in Washington, Dc, without fear of of judgment or reproof. And I tried to. I showed up ready to meditate my way through Kabbalat Shabbat. But 10 minutes into it they were still discussing what they were GOING to do. We’re going to meditate, we’re going to sing, we’re going to breath. And contemplate–boy are we going to contemplate.

And, with the strains of a spirited service wafting through the air from several rooms over, I was ready to just DO already. So off I went to the next stop…traditional egalitarian, which that night was being led by a Latino Jewish man teaching the mostly-Ashkenazi crowd some Sephardic tunes. But with a room full of newbies to Sephardic singing, the atmosphere was muted, and I was unmoved.

And so I followed the strains of the music across the hall to the the mechitzah Carlebach service. My husband looked over at my quizzically–with all these options, and with all my stated desires to “break free,” how had I wound up back in what was, essentially, the Orthodox service at LimmudNY?

I simply went to the most beautiful tefillot I could find. The mechitzah minyan won not because of the mechitzah but despite of it, and together with my son, husband, and hundreds of Limmud-niks, I had a great time.

Maybe there’s something to be learned here about pluralism, or about self-exploration. At very unique events like LimmudNY, you can forge your own path through spiritual marketplace, and follow it wherever it may lead…even if it brings you right back where you started.

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