I have been going to Washington and Lee Hillel’s events for a little under a year now. I grew up in a very welcoming and religiously free, but still Catholic, home. As I started going to Hillel events, I was blown away by how inviting everyone was. It was not the standoffish behavior I had seen from other services, but rather a welcoming and giving community.
On November 13th I had the opportunity to go to Roanoke and go to my first Friday Evening Service in a Conservative Jewish Temple. I was shocked at the similarities between a Catholic service and a Shabbat service. Aside from being unable to understand it (unfortunately, I learned Spanish in school and not Hebrew), the service followed the same structure that I had grown up with.
VMI Cadets Horowitz, Chisner, and Balson chat before the service. Students from W&L, VMI, SVU, Virginia Tech, Radford and Roanoke College also enjoyed a festive Shabbat meal together that was prepared by the members of Temple Beth Israel.
The service started with prayers and teachings and progressed with lots of singing. The middle of the service was dedicated to the mourners and remembering those who had passed. The service ended with a final prayer and song. It was the same structure that I was comfortable with and had come to expect from Pastor John back home.
It was an eye-opening experience to learn how similar Judaism and Catholicism are in their services, further showing that religions are not that different from one another. In addition, it was nice to feel accepted into a community that I am not formally a part of. The temple in Roanoke did not care that I was not Jewish but embraced my quest for knowledge of different cultures.