I wasn’t Jewish when I first joined Bet Tikvah, a queer-centric, independent minyan, or nondenominational Jewish prayer group, for the High Holy Day Services in 2018. Actually, I didn’t know much about Judaism at all then. However, in part thanks to the amazing community I found there, I have since become Jewish myself. As a queer person, I never expected religion to become important to me, but, in this community, I found a place where I could both be a queer woman and learn Torah.
If you, too, find yourself curious about Judaism, the High Holy Days are a great time of year to attend services and learn more. One purpose of the High Holy Day period is to reflect on the past year and to set intentions for the year to come. Rosh Hashanah, commemorating the birth of the world, can be viewed as a day of judgement. It initiates the 10 days of awe leading up to Yom Kippur which begins at Kol Nidre. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement and, it is said, the day that G-d inscribes names into the book of life for the upcoming year.
Here are a few quick tips for joining services:
- Bet Tikvah is lay lead meaning there is no official Rabbi for the congregation. Rather, a community member leads the service, which is primarily chanted or sung. Don’t worry if you don’t know the tunes—you’ll pick them up quickly.
- You will not be able to miss the stack of prayer books by the door when you come in—grab one and follow along! If you can’t read Hebrew, you can sing the transliteration (Hebrew words written in English letters) or read the English translation alongside.
- A kippah, or yarmulke, is the hat that Jewish people sometimes wear; there will be kippot available at the chapel when you arrive. You do not have to wear one, but you can! Any member of the congregation would be happy to show you how to wear it. As a woman, I had never had the opportunity to wear a kippah before going to Bet Tikvah; now I wear it proudly.
- “Shana Tov” or “good year” is the traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah. “Yom Tov”, meaning “have a holy day”, or simply “have an easy fast” are traditional greetings for Yom Kippur.
- Contact Bet Tikvah directly if you have additional questions. They’re happy to provide whatever information you need to feel confident when you arrive.
During the 2022/5783 High Holy Days, Bet Tikvah will be hosting services in the Cohen Chapel at Rodef Shalom for Rosh Hashanah on Monday, September 26 at 7:30PM; Kol Nidre on Tuesday, October 04 at 7:00PM; and Yom Kippur on Wednesday, October 05 at 4:00PM. If you plan to attend, contact Bet Tikvah at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, September 22 to schedule a short interview.