Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Great Synagogues

Tempio Maggiore (Florence, Italy)
I'm sure I visited synagogues in Israel with security, but there are military, police, and guards everywhere in the country, so I probably didn't notice anything at an individual building. In Europe, however, it was a very different story. In Florence, there were armed guards (both inside and outside the bars), lockers, and a metal detector. I can't remember if there were x-rays...probably they just made us put everything in a locker before entering. All of this on a Tuesday morning.

The Great Synagogue (Sydney, Australia)
I had to steal this photo of the Great Synagogue of Sydney as we were there on a Friday night and I either didn't have bring a camera or I figured photographing an orthodox synagogue on a Friday night was bad form. Notice the bars. (Note that the much larger St. Mary's Cathedral on the other side of Hyde Park does not feel the need to erect a fence.) I remember seeing some flyers for a pro-Palestinian protest taped to lamp posts on the street in front. And I remember the security. There were two personnel; one was a twenty something girl...if either were armed, they were concealing. Still, this was the most difficult synagogue entry I've ever had to make...and we were travelling with a six month old Jancie. Here's an excerpt from someone else's visit to a synagogue in London, but the dialogue is pretty much the same.   

“Where are you going?”
“To synagogue.”
“Where are you from?”
I paused, because I’m never really sure of that answer any more. “New York. I work for New York University, I’m visiting.”
“Where do you go to synagogue?”
Again, I faltered. There were too many answers to that question. “Well, I’m originally from Seattle and there I went to Shevet Achim.”
“Who is your rabbi?”
In Seattle? New York? “Well, it’s complicated, but Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.”
“Ok, and do you keep Shabbat?”
“Do you have ID?” Trick question.
“No, but I emailed my passport copy to the shul on Thursday.”
“OK, and is there anything in your pockets?”
        Just my hands, I showed them. Convinced, they radioed inside and the doors opened. 

Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation

Although it is by far the most recent foreign synagogue visit, my memory of the entrance is the least clear of these 3. It was Ireland, so there may have been some drinking either before or after. Unlike either Great Synagogue above, this one is somewhat hidden and in a residential area. I believe it is fenced, but this was open when we arrived for services. There may have been a member greeting people at the door. Unfortunately, we did not make it to a Belfast synagogue. 

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