A few weeks ago Shiksa Girlfriend and I went to a very nice, but fairly small Conservative shul, largely populated by Holocaust survivors. Awesome history, but the median age there is something like 60. Our unofficial name for it is Beth Elderly.
Everyone was very nice to us (surprised, in fact, to see people they'd never met before), and were even impressed at our ability to "read" Hebrew (magic transliterations to the rescue). As it turned out, our visit coincided with a community potluck, which we particularly appreciated because I am a Jew and SG is a foodie and naturally, we love free food.
We went again last week, SG bringing a cake she had made. (Since I'm lactose intolerant, it was a vegan cake.)
So we show up, and again, people seem very surprised to see us. One old man stares at us. "It's not potluck tonight."
Luckily, when it comes to cake, Beth Elderly isn't too picky. After services we had a fun nosh, which included comments from several folks on the leadership committee asking us pointed questions about how to attract "youth" like us.
A student who usually goes to the local Hillel opined, "I like text study, I've always enjoyed that." I nodded, thinking back to my college days studying the Zohar, or as I affectionately referred to it, "Judaism on Crack." I also endured an internal wince, as I thought back to a friend's critique of David Hartman- "He thinks text study will save the Jewish people. I've got news for him. It won't."
"We also like Carlebach singing," SG said. Someone shrugged. "You should try Minyan X." I noted the name and we refrained from giving any further suggestions.
Far more entertaining were the services themselves. First, the gabbai thanked us for showing up, commenting that it would "help us make a minyan quicker." At the m-word, SG shot me a look. I shrugged. During Kabbalat Shabbat, the gabbai popped up again, and in a thick accent, asked us if we'd open the ark. He handed SG a kippah that looked like it had been a napkin in a previous life. Again, invisible arrows stabbed me in the face. I squeezed her hand.
Finally, the gabbai motioned to us and we went up, opened the doors, then closed them and took our seats. Her face was a little flushed, but SG did just fine.
Afterwards, people were asking us a little about ourselves. SG told them she was from a particular Southern state, and lo and behold, one of them had actually visited that city before! "Were you involved with the community there?"
I can see the imaginary thought-bubble above SG's head. "SHIT."
"Uh, no, not really. I mean, there's a temple in town, but we mostly stuck to our own suburb."
"Hmm." The man seems a little sad he can't make more conversation out of their Jewish geography connection, but lets it go. It's sad but true; secular Jews are all too commonplace these days.
Before we left, we were talking with a young woman about our age, and SG let her secret out- "I'm not actually Jewish."
"Oh, that's cool," the woman said. "Neither is my Dad, and they still made my Mom President of the Shul."
We filed it away for later. Maybe on our next trip SG will come clean.