I had never had the feeling of being a cult before. We had joked about it, and laughed a long too, but I had never really felt like it was a legitimate feeling. Until now.
I sat in the pew of the HUC Synagouge, three rows from the back, and looked around the room.
I haven't been in a shule for ages, the last time I was 13 years old and was reading from the Torah on my Bat Mitzvah. It was the first time that actually had enough understanding and self confidence to just sit, and watch and listen. I allowed myself to get lost in thought.
Before, when I was younger, I didn't really understand My Judaism and why we do what we do, so I always just took it for granted. Now, looking around at the Rabbinic Students I felt as though I didn't belong. I've never felt like this before and I didn't know quite how to handle it.
The cult like feelings I had were intensified by the people in front; and behind me bowing and chanting in unison. I felt like an outsider.
My mind drifted to the same place as my body through the singing and chanting and felt as though I could feel my thoughts. I though about the army, and the way it must feel to be shot. I could feel a pain in my shoulder and the breathlessness that I can only imagine. My brain occupationally tuned in and out of the speech from the Rabbi leading the service. He spoke fondly of the yamulke he was wearing, from a survivor in the Shoah. Every so often he would touch his hand to his head, tentatively, fondly. Almost caressing.
I thought then, as I have the past few days, about showing my Judaism, and how I don't have any means to do so. I looked around the room to the men wrapping tefilah and the women clipping their yarmulkes to their hair. I had spent so many years in school hiding it for fear of humiliation. Flash backs of Grade Eight came rushing back. A boy, knocking my books and pencil case to the ground everyday. His friends laughing as they spat at me and called me a dirty Jew. I don't think I'll ever forget that feeling, and it will be a long time before I can publicly display my Judaism with pride.
A small part of me finally understood why people would think that the Jews as a people were strange or exclusive, and no matter how much we try and deny it, we know that its a truth and that it always will be. We're exclusive. We're a clique. It's odd.