Another synagogue visit (Dor Chadash)

Friday night I went to Dor Chadash, a Reconstructionist congregation. I'd been there once before for a Purim service that a friend was involved in and once on a Shabbat morning (I think), both several years ago. They do not have Friday services every week; currently they're doing two a month, and I don't know if that's a summer thing or their normal routine.

There were about 20 people there, which someone said was a little small. Dor Chadash is a lay-led congregation, though the person who led this service is in rabbinic school (currently off and back home for the summer). There was also a cantorial soloist (someone said "cantor" but I don't think so). There was a lot of singing; many were melodies that I'd heard but don't know, but they were easy to pick up. I wish I had retained any of them. At least one felt like Carlebach to me, and I think I heard one or two of them at the kallah a couple weeks ago. Oh well; I'll encounter them again someday. Even if I would use a recorder on Shabbat, it's not like I would be inclined to carry one with me to services. :-)

They sang or read passages from several of the psalms in kabbalat shabbat (not all). At a rough guess the liturgical time was split fairly evenly between kabbalat shabbat and ma'ariv, which probably only stood out because of the kallah two weeks ago where kabblat shabbat was very much the lion's share with a quickie ma'ariv tacked on. Dor Chadash started the t'filah together but immediately went to individual recitation, and I was surprised by how fast they were (that is, how quickly people sat down). I was reciting it pretty efficiently (and skipping some bits once I picked up the vibe), but I was still the last to sit down. As a visitor I felt awkward, as if I'd come in from outside and slowed them down. But whoa was that fast -- maybe four minutes? (The cantorial soloist then chanted Magen Avot, which I suppose "covers" you if you didn't do your own, but I didn't know in advance that she would.)

There was a rabbi there (introduced as a guest), who gave a d'var torah. (He mentioned that he'd be reading torah the next morning; I don't know if he had any other leadership roles.) He talked about the beginning of Matot, which lists all the places Israel camped in the wilderness, and about the importance of remembering history and the effects of displacement. (It was more coherent coming out of his mouth then than my memory now.) Toward the beginning he asked the congregation how many places Israel camped and there was resounding silence, so I quietly answered. (I was in the second row, right in front of him.) I don't think I knew that I knew that until he asked, but I guess I did.

Everyone was very friendly after the service. I was the only newcomer, so it was easier for them to learn my name than for me to learn all of theirs. I talked for a while with a professor of music history at Pitt; we talked about 16th-century counterpoint, which I suspect surprised him as much as it surprised me for Shabbat conversation. And it turned out that the person who looked really familiar but I couldn't say why is a neighbor on my block, so we went home together. (And the friend who motivated that first visit was there too.)

Of the (local) places I've visited this summer, Dor Chadash is the clear winner so far. Next time I want to be somewhere other than my own congregation on a night when they are having services, I expect to go back.