Religious uncertainty

The original post had restricted access. While I'm now fine with making my post public, people commented under the assumption of a restricted audience and I'm not going to expose those. Hence, no link to the original for this one.

With some trepidation, I have just sent the email that might lead to me joining an Orthodox congregation. While I always imagined that this would happen someday, I did not expect it to happen out of an acute need and during my Reform congregation's transition year between permanent rabbis. And so I need to be clear and up front about that acute need with the rabbi, that there is a complicating driver mixed in with the pull (and push) I've been feeling for a while.

It's like this: I need a place to go for the high holy days this year. My Reform congregation is doing them entirely on Zoom. Given that they will be doing them from a large, empty sanctuary, I asked if it would be possible for a small, overly-safe, number of people to join in person, including yours truly. I mean, the sanctuary itself holds about 350-400 people, to say nothing of the expansion for typical HHD services when they slide out some walls to greatly enlarge the space. I would be surprised if as many as 30 people would want to attend in person. This can be done safely. But the answer is no, for various reasons.

I can't do high holy days on Zoom. I just can't. And I can't competently do them alone at home, especially Yom Kippur, and have anything like the proper focus and intention. (That's the fallback, but I need to try to do better.) I'm "attending" the Shabbat morning minyan via previously-set-up Zoom (in weeks when nothing goes wrong technically), and it's contact but it's not prayer for me. It's the best the congregation can do right now and I don't fault them for it, but to me it feels like watching a Shabbat service on TV. I am not going to relegate Yom Kippur to a broadcast.

I love a lot of the people in my congregation, but theologically it's never been a great fit for me, and some of the changes of the last several years have not been for the better. A year ago I said to my husband that I wouldn't be surprised if I were at a different synagogue five years hence, but with the transition after my rabbi's retirement, I wanted to stick with this one for at least three years (one transition year, first two years of new leadership) before deciding.

But that was before COVID, which has made it even more obvious than it was that I am a mutant within this group of people I love, and sometimes that gets in the way.

So, we'll see. Dual membership seems the way to go, at least for now. Assuming that any congregation that is actually meeting in person (with precautions) is accepting new members, and assuming that they have a way to do HHD services safely. (Multiple services? Outdoors? Distributed (smaller groups)? Standing outside an open window if they're meeting indoors too closely? I'm fine with the Hillel-at-the-study-hall approach...) I don't know what's practical, but it's time to ask.