What is the value of attending services every week?

Updated: Mar 13

By David Zaslawsky

This space is usually reserved for David’s News Around the World, but please excuse me this month for having a different and personal purpose.

Rabbi Scott Kramer, my wife, Tina McManama, and I were engaged in a deep conversation about life; Judaism; why the Call to Prayer is not at the beginning of the Friday night service; how long baseball players warm up before a game; and the lack of attendance at the four services at AIEA.

The conversation was prior to me being wheeled away at Jackson Surgery Center for gallbladder surgery. I was nervous. I was worried. I was scared. I had a minor surgery about 35 years ago and do not recall much about it.

For two or so hours, the Rabbi and Tina kept me from obsessing about my gallbladder surgery. That’s no easy task because I obsess – just ask Tina. They made me comfortable. The Rabbi made me really focus and concentrate on his detailed explanations. My mind had no chance to wander back to my upcoming surgery and anxieties.

The Rabbi asked me one of those philosophical questions: What value do I see in attending services at AIEA. Yes, he asked me that while I was in my hospital bed.

I am a Friday night regular and a very rare Saturday morning participant. I go to Friday night services whether Tina is on vacation or not feeling well.

It’s important to me to attend the Friday night service and after the service I treat myself to a shot of wine. It’s become one of my traditions. I also nibble at the oneg – especially the sweets. Tina and I eat pizza and salad when we get home. That has become another tradition.

I was raised secular although my dad was raised orthodox in a very tight Jewish community on the South side of Chicago. That’s another story for another day.

What is the value in being a member at AIEA and attending a service or two? One of the obvious benefits for me was the Rabbi spending two-plus hours comforting me. He did the same when I first joined the synagogue and Tina was having back surgery.

I feel closer to God. How do you measure the value of that? I prayed for Tina’s health and mine. I also prayed for two non-health things. I hope I am not pushing it.

I feel a sense of community at AIEA services. I have always enjoyed large gatherings with relatives as well as smaller events with grandparents and cousins. I feel a sense of belonging.

I feel good – spiritually, emotionally and mentally, but I have to admit the service is hard on my back. I know those near me hear my groans.

The Friday night service is vibrant, happy and uplifting. I even tap my foot during some of the prayers and it’s wonderful sitting next to Tina and listen to her beautiful voice.

I do not read Hebrew, but I use the transliteration to closely follow the prayers. I am totally engaged and when the Rabbi asks me what page a prayer is on I can usually answer. I like being called on to read aloud during the responsive reading.

I look forward to seeing the Friday night participants and swapping stories over desserts or trading sports trivia or hearing Jack London say that he is not the Jack London who wrote Call of the Wild. I almost forgot to mention talking about Alabama football. Roll Tide.

I did have a one-on-one lunch with the Rabbi because I wasn’t sure that I was feeling what I should at Friday night services. I understood it’s different for different people, but what should I feel?

I now understand that I leave the service feeling happy and content. It puts a smile on my face. I feel a close tie to our Jewish community. As I’ve become more engaged in my Jewish heritage, it has become important to say Kaddish.

I am full-fledged member of the AIEA family. And I look forward to attending Friday night services. I can see the value of attending services at the synagogue and developing a personal relationship with the Rabbi.

Can you?

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