Since coming out I find myself searching for a shul that I feel comfortable in. My attitude towards davening (praying) is a result of my upbringing. I expect a very solemn, serious service with minimal talking in the pews and an all-encompassing feel of spiritual aspiration b’Shma (for its own purpose). I am therefore comfortable with the services in traditional black-hat and German style synagogues.
I have different expectations for my community, expectations that I have not been able to fulfill in the traditional synagogues I just mentioned. I take comfort in a community that is accepting of everyone, a community that sees each person for the inner spark that they can provide and welcomes them into the fold so that spark can be nurtured into a roaring flame. In these communities I feel that I can be open and respected as a gay man and, more importantly, as a gay Jew. I have found communities like this among the left-leaning “independent minyanim” I’ve encountered in Israel, New York City, Washington D.C. and others.
My problem is as follows: in the traditional communities I don’t feel welcome as an individual. It is as if, upon entering the synagogue, I find myself facing a security guard who demands that I leave my personality at the door. Then and only then may I participate in the prayers. In the more liberal communities I feel welcomed, embraced, appreciated for the entirety of what I have to offer. However, I find it difficult to connect through their services which tend to be a bit more relaxed than I am comfortable/familiar with. I’ve found some shuls that attempt to create a middle ground, proclaiming a modern approach to Judaic community with basically the same traditional services. Unfortunately, more often than not this third type of community leaves me wanting for both community and service.
I once happened a shul in Yerushalayim that actually did a good job at creating a middle ground. This is the Yedidya community in the Talpiot/Baka neighborhood. But this community is half a world away. What am I to do? Should I pray where I feel I could potentially develop a better spiritual connection, even though this nexus is diminished by the limits of the community? Or, in the alternative, should I pray where I feel welcomed, but unable to comfortably engage in a prayer services? A shul needs to be more than a prayer house, more than a building of concrete and wood containing mortals aspiring to be more for a few hours a day. A shul needs to be a home where I feel comfortable approaching G-d as a father, but it cannot lose the quality of inspiring the fear of G-d as a king.
I suppose I’m just guy trying to find my way home.