Friday, November 29, 2013

The Denver Synagogue by Summer Anderson

            Recently, Rachel and I attended BMH-BJ: The Denver Synagogue. We arrived a little before 9:00 a.m. because that’s when the service started. We found it a little odd that it was just a few others and us. A Layperson, someone that is like a deacon, came to us because he could tell we were not Jewish and informed us that most of the congregation doesn’t show up until 9:30-10:00, but he, Jay, was very willing to help us learn about what went on during the Shabbat service. He described the siddur, which is a book that contains the prayers that are recited during the service and the chumash, which contains the five books of Moses.
Jay had one of the synagogue’s teachers sit by us and explain what was happening during the service. She also gave us a tour of the synagogue and showed us where they have the traditional services with men and women seated on separate sides and the classrooms where the children spend their time during the services.
Jay invited us to read the nation’s prayer in front of the congregation, so Rachel went up and read it and did a great job. It was very nice of him to ask us to do that. He also let us look at the Torah when it was being read, which was very fascinating. He explained that they have to insure the Torah for thousands of dollars, because they are all handwritten with duck quills and it takes almost a year to finish one.
My favorite part of the service was when the Cantor sang the prayers. Jay informed us that he was a Holocaust survivor and that they had several in the congregation. Cantor Zach was actually retired, but the present Cantor was on vacation. The prayers were all sung in Hebrew and it was very beautiful. He was also the cutest old guy ever!

The Denver synagogue is the largest conservative synagogue, not the only one in Denver by far.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral by Simon Sager

This experience was different than I expected. In all honesty, I had never heard of Greek Orthodoxy before my time in Denver. Going into this experience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t picture the service being held in a dome or for it to be so Greek infused. I didn’t anticipate much of the service being spoken in Greek. I was also surprised to see the service so well attended.
Maybe it is because I have my final paper topic at the front of my mind or maybe it is because music truly is the way I communicate and grow spiritually, but the music in the service was really what struck me. The vast majority of the service had some sort of musical quality to it. In fact, there were no spoken words until 45 minutes into the service. Everything before that, be it scripture, prayers or other readings, was either chanted by them men standing near the Alter in front of us or sang by the choir standing on the balcony behind us. Because the acoustics of the room were so great and often times the singing happened from the balcony behind us, I sometimes couldn’t tell who was singing. This was a little off putting at first but after a while I grew to really like not knowing who was singing. It allowed me to really focus on the words that were being sung/chanted instead of focusing on the person who was singing. I was able to hear the message without any distractions and take the words to heart.
The whole point of my final paper is going to be that music, in a religious sense, provides something special. Music is a medium that allows us to communicate with God. The fact that the majority of this service had music ingrained into it proves this point. Obviously, the people who attended this church feel that music helps us to communicate with God and that music allows us to hear God’s voice. I am very glad that I got to have the experience of going to this Greek service before writing my final paper. I think that it affirmed my belief that music is one the most spiritual practices in existence. Even though I did not always know what was happening throughout the service, I could still feel God’s presence throughout. In my opinion, this is because of the music. Music has power and going to this service just reaffirmed my strong belief that God uses music to speak to people.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mizel Museum by Emily Preussner

 I did not know exactly what to expect when I walked into the Mizel Museum. I knew going into it that it would take a look back at Judaism but never expected the vibrant colors and modern art. I have visited many museums in my lifetime but most of them are the same. The Mizel Museum took me by surprise. It captured my attention and displayed artifacts in such a way that would interest any visitor. The creators and designers definitely took into consideration the guest and wanted to make sure they had a good time while visiting the museum.

The Mizel Museum is a small place with a lot of history about Judaism. It only has four rooms with lots of artifacts and descriptions about what Jewish people went through the last 4,000 years. Next to each artifact, there is a description of what it is and what it is used for. I wish that we were there a little bit longer so I had time to actually take a look at all the artifacts in each room. Looking at those pieces helps people understand the Jewish way of life, not just their religion.

As for the religion, I went into this visit feeling pretty good because I knew some things about it. Judaism and Christians have many connections so I knew some of their beliefs before I read about the religion in the book. I also learned a few things, like the Torah, in my introduction to religion class at Wartburg. When the tour guide talked about the Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, and the sands of time, I knew what she was talking about. I have read those stories from the Bible so I didn’t feel lost when she was talking. When visiting the Buddhist monastery, it was hard for me to understand their religion since I haven’t been exposed to it.

The lady who gave us a tour was a great speaker and knew a lot about the history of Judaism. She articulated that Judaism is about trying to figure out the answers and interpreting the Torah, which is different from other religions. When I spoke with a Muslim man, he talked about the Qur’an tells them how to live. It has an answer for everything so they do not have to interpret the words. This differs from what the Jewish believe.

Even though there are differences between Judaism and Islam, I noticed some similarities. The main one is the treatment of both religions’ followers. Everyone knows about the Holocaust and how many innocent people were killed because of their religion. They were blamed for the bad economy and people turned against them. They still have a lot of bad publicity but the religion has remained strong. Since 9/11, Muslims have been looked down on. Many people have blamed Muslims for the attacks on America soil. Islam is still trying to fight those critics by educating those to see that it is not a violent religion. Even though the attacks were 12 years ago, Islam is still trying to fight all the negativity that is around the religion. Even with that, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.