Monday, November 05, 2018

Shabbat In Charleston

When I knew that I was going to be in Charleston, South Carolina, I decided that I wanted to attend Shabbat services at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, one of the oldest synagogues in the United States. The congregation was founded in 1749 with the current sanctuary built in 1840. After the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I definitely wanted to attend Friday night Shabbat services. The unique sanctuary is unlike any I've ever seen, so I've included some pictures here.

In the immediacy after the shooting, I was sad and angry. I shared my frustration about the shooting and the state of our country. I still feel terrible for the family members of the victims, and I still have no confidence in our government to do something to prevent mass shootings by making sure that people who shouldn't have guns, don't have guns. Just on Friday, two people were killed and five others were wounded at a yoga studio in Tallahassee.

With all of that written, there is some good in the world. Seeing how the Pittsburgh community has come together has been incredible. I always knew that Pittsburgh was a special place, but I've been amazed by the city's unity and support for one another. Back to Charleston, there were easily 200 people for Friday night services. I don't know how many people typically attend Shabbat services, but my guess is that this is significantly more than usual. I went to services by myself, and while I tend to keep to myself in unfamiliar situations, the congregation was particularly welcoming. I sat next to a pastor of a local church and his wife, both at the synagogue with their son to support Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim ("KKBE") and the Jewish community. Naturally, I met another couple that spent about a decade in Pittsburgh in the 80s. It turned out that we both attended Tree of Life at the same time (I didn't know them) and actually lived less than a mile apart for several years. Because Pittsburgh.

Overhearing several conversations, there were definitely people of multiple faiths attending services in solidarity with the Jewish community. It sounds like this happened throughout the United States. And this is why in the wake of last week's shooting, I do have some faith in humanity. It seems like there are so many divisions in this country, particularly politically, but attending services with so many people really was heartening. Oh, every synagogue should serve root beer floats during the oneg (the post-service social gathering) like KKBE! Root beer floats can certainly bring the country together!

(The first and third photos are courtesy of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim website. The second is my own picture, clearly not of the same quality of the others.)

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