People often ask us members of the tribe to self-label our Jewish affiliation, to pick a box--Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or perhaps Reconstructionist, Traditional, or Humanist. But many of us can't pick just one box. Our religious Jewish identity is too overflowing to be contained.
My mom always told my sister and me she wanted us to grow up in a shul that was somewhere in the middle of the religious spectrum because she wanted us to feel "at home" in any synagogue we set foot in--from the very traditional to the very Reform.
I loved my synagogue growing up. I looked forward to putting on my Shabbat best, eating some leftover challah, and making my way to synagogue with my family. Even after my bat mitzvah, I relished the chance to go back and teach the younger students Torah trope for their own bar and bat mitzvah preparation. I loved the services too, both the children's service and then, in later years, the main sanctuary when I was old enough to join the adults. I reveled in the familiarity of the tunes of the tefilot (prayers), and adored sitting nestled between my family members as my senses took in all the beautiful pieces of the Shabbat service.
Years later, my parents switched to a large Reform congregation, a place they love and are very involved in today. Every Rosh Hashanah, I return home and join them at the new synagogue. We often join the student-led High Holiday service, which offers a feeling of hope for the future of the Jewish people and beautiful music with a Jewish camp-like feel to it. And the rabbis deliver Dvrei Torahs (talk related to Torah portion) so rich they leave me "soul" food for thought all year long.
Back in Chicago, I've been shul-hopping for many years to several wonderful synagogues of all types.
But for the past six months, I've found myself davening in a modern Orthodox shul almost every Shabbat, where my fiancé is a member. The congregation, with their superlative rabbi at the helm, is a welcoming place to Chicago-area Jews of all religious backgrounds, a melting pot of all the many beautiful ways to be Jewish. The shul--like its members--is joyous, inclusive, diverse, inspiring, and haimish. Even though I came from a less traditional Jewish background, I'm finding my niche at this special place.
Just as my mom had hoped for all those years ago, I feel "at home" there--and in any Jewish space I go to.