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Herman Got Me Back to the Synagogue

The fact that Herman got me going back to the synagogue again after many years is ironic since he isn’t Jewish.

See, when I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, the family always went to a synagogue called Park Synagogue. I went to Hebrew school there every day after public school to learn about the culture, history and beliefs of Judaism. It was a conservative synagogue, which is kind of middle-of-the-road between the very strict Orthodox Jewish sect and the more liberal Reformed Jewish sect.

I can tell you this; it was much more of a social situation for me than spiritual. Since most of my friends were Jewish, it didn’t really feel like Hebrew school in that I took arts and crafts, cooking classes and learned the music of Jewish tradition. I did this with my friends and people I went to school with, so it didn’t really feel like religious education.

I am reminded immediately of the play and film “Fiddler on the Roof,” where the main song “Tradition” tells of how Jews have a reverence for their history and how they have always done things.

One such thing is attending services during the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They just recently passed as you read this, so that’s why it’s on my mind.

“Rosh” means “head” and “Hashanah” means year. So literally it is the “head of the year” or Jewish New Year 5771. “Yom” means day and “Kippur” means atonement, so that is the Day of Atonement which is when Jews seek repentance for the past year’s sins whereas Christians do this weekly in church.

Herman was absolutely amazed that I hadn’t been to a synagogue here in Fulton County or for years before we met.

During the years I was pursuing my acting career both in New York City and L.A. I was so busy and self-absorbed in trying to get my name out there that I forgot my roots and my family’s “tradition.”

Here in Fulton County I attend Knesseth Israel Synagogue, which is on Fulton Street in Gloversville. Sadly, we lost our Rabbi this past year and the congregation is dwindling ever smaller.

At a time like this, just having lost our rabbi, I can’t help but think about what is really important in life. It isn’t in seeing your name up in lights.

However you celebrate your own religion and spiritual life, I wish you a happy and healthy new year. Shalom.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site