Familiarity Breeds Content

by Roselyn Allen, December 1, 2019

When I went to the University of King’s College in Halifax, I was a campus police officer over a summer holiday. King’s was founded as an Anglican institution and still had a chapel along with clergy and was very traditional in its practice, even continuing to have High Anglican services in Latin, long after the rest of the diocese had fallen regularly into English-only practice.

One day in May, I was on duty in the CP office when the Sacristan (equivalent to a shammas) came to me and asked if I knew if there was anyone who could serve at the graduation prayer service, as most students had left the city for the summer break. I told him Catherine was around – but she was already serving and they needed two servers. And I said “you know I’d help you, but… I’m Jewish.” Suddenly his eyes brightened, and he told me I could do it. I wouldn’t have to do anything but mirror Catherine – no sacraments, no kneeling – just carry a scepter in a procession, and take the collection plate from the lay leaders.

Now, my mother was a music teacher who annually put on Christmas concerts (with a bit of Chanukah thrown in) for our public schools, and she helped lead Christian church choirs when their conductors were away, as well as leading our own synagogue choir. She encouraged us to go to our friends’ for Christmas dinner while we had them over to light candles at Chanukah and participate in our seders. So, I agreed to serve in the graduation prayer service.

The day came and Catherine showed me how to put on the rather complicated vestments. She showed me how to hold the scepter and where to place it when we had processed to the altar. I then found out where my chair was… I would be seated next to the Bishop of Fredericton. My heart was pounding as I didn’t wish to embarrass my school in front of the graduates and their families, and their Bishop!

We proceeded up the aisle. Catherine went right, I went left. Catherine placed her scepter in its holder and so did I. We went to our seats and carried on with the regularities of the service, incense tickling my nose, Latin tickling my ears. Finally, my big moment to take the collection plate from the lay leaders came. I got it to its place without spilling coins all over the altar! I went back to my seat, a successful imposter.

It was then that the Bishop leaned over to me and whispered “What comes next? I’m not used to this High Anglican service.”

I leaned back and quietly said “I don’t know. I’m Jewish.”

Antisemitism is on the rise in Canada and around the world. Hate primarily comes from ignorance and misconceptions. One way to fight is to share our traditions with others so they get their information about Judaism straight from the source rather than in some shady corner of the internet. People will always have more in common than thought – but we look for the differences. Of course, the roots of hate aren’t this simple- but sharing our culture is a place to start.

The days are now growing shorter, but Chanukah is still one month away. In fact, this year, Chanukah coincides with the holidays of Christmas and Kwanzaa. What better way to share our festival of lights than to do so with our friends and neighbours? Open yourself to other traditions while familiarizing your community with Judaism.

I’m sure many of us go to our children’s schools and make latkes and teach kids to gamble – I mean, play dreidel. But, if it’s not already a part of your tradition, consider lighting your candles with those unfamiliar to Chanukah. Bring a friend to our Zimrya and other celebrations at Solel.

P.S. Remember our Invite Your Neighbour service in February.

Filed under: President's Message

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