Monday, October 10, 2011

Yom Kippur in Madrid

This past weekend, I went to Congregación Bet-El for Yom Kippur (Iom Kipur in Spanish) services in Madrid.  I was really curious to see what would be the same and what would be different from home.  Much like a ballet class has a set order of plies, tendus, degages, ronde de james, and other exercises, a service has also follows a defined pattern of songs, readings, and prayers.  With this in mind, I figured it wouldn´t be hugely different.

As expected, the service was very familiar to me.  Some of the melodies were the same as at home, yet others were very different.  Of course, the service was in Spanish and Hebrew.  Each time we´d finish reading something in Hebrew, and hear, "Estámos en la página 254," it made me smile and think, "Oh yeah, I´m still in Spain."  Actually being in the service was like taking a break from Madrid.  Since the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, there´s not a whole lot of Jewish culture around the city.  In general, I don´t think there are that many Jews in Madrid.  Many of the people at the service were Americans working or traveling in Spain. 

The siddur the congregation used was from Buenos Aires.  Two things really surprised me about the prayer book:

1. Obviously, prayer books and religious services talk about God a lot. No surprise.  But, what did surprise me was that they used informal grammar for this.  For example, they would write, "Hemos errado ante ti," instead of, "Hermos errado ante usted."   Usually to show lots of respect, you use formal grammar in Spanish. Informal grammar is for general, friendly interactions.  Maybe they´re trying to help you make more of a personal connection.  In any case, it was interesting to note.

2. I saw Spanish, Hebrew, and what I thought was a third language. At first, I couldn´t figure out what this "third language" was, or why it was in the book.  After a few moments, it dawned on me that it was a transliteration of the Hebrew words spelled out for pronunciation in Spanish.  For example, it would say " mi jamojá" instead of "mi chamocha." Typically, I don´t look at transliterations when they´re there, because it´s usually easier to just read the Hebrew, but I´m glad I happened to glance at them.  I´m reasonably used to seeing transliterations in English, but I wasn´t expecting to see them in Spanish, once I finally figured out that was what they were.

Anyways, the services were very nice, and the people there were friendly, as most Jews are.  Good experience.  Maybe I´ll drop in again for Passover or a Friday.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an amazing experience to me! I really hope to seen Congregation Bet-El when I'm in Madrid! It would be neat to photocopy the prayer book!