Update: thank you all so much! You finally helped me drum up the courage to jump in, and I just got off the phone with my local synagogue. I’ve been welcomed to their Friday service and they’re sending me info on how to join their adult classes for when they open back up post-quarantine. Also, the very kind woman I spoke to gave me her email so I can talk to a member of the clergy if I want to learn more after the Friday service. I’m so excited!
My anxiety has kept me from taking the next step for a long time for fear I would be intruding on other people’s place of worship, and my total lack of knowledge and exposure to Judaism made me unsure of where to start, but now I’m finally going to have a chance to really learn about it and follow my heart. I’m so grateful to you guys for all your help and for being kind to me despite me being totally clueless.
Apologies in advance if I use the wrong words or phrasing for any of this, I don’t know any of the technical terms.
Hello! I’m not Jewish and I don’t personally know anyone who is Jewish, either ethnically or religiously. I live in the midwestern US and I know there must be Jewish communities in my area somewhere although I’m not familiar with any or where they are.
I was raised what I call ‘Country Bible Christian’, which is to say no real denomination. My family bounced around from church to church when I was young so I’ve experienced lots of different kinds of the same Christianity (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, etc etc) as well as some secondhand exposure to Catholicism from my mom’s side. I’m not a Christian myself and I don’t practice or attend church, but I do consider myself a spiritual person and I enjoy getting new perspectives and learning different ways people of all different faiths experience relationships with god, nature and each other. I’m still very much on my journey and although I have some deeply held beliefs about it all, none of them really seem to match up to any religion I’ve found. That doesn’t really bother me, I see faith as a way for people to connect and I love that.
Despite not knowing much of anything about Judaism aside from what I’ve seen in movies and tv, I’ve always been really interested in it and from what I understand there are a lot of things about it that I find really beautiful and moving (like that the Jewish relationship with god seems like a healthy 2-way dialogue rather than just awe and fear, the emphasis on doing good for its own sake, rituals that focus on togetherness and family, treating holy texts as something to be individually explored, questioned and interpreted rather than interpreted solely by a preacher, the communal harnessing and transformation of suffering into kindness, closeness and strength, and so many others).
I understand that I can’t convert (I have zero Jewish heritage) and I’m not looking to, but I do want to learn more. How can I do this beyond just reading about it, and where should I start? Are there books you recommend I should read? Is it acceptable for me to attend a service, or would that be seen as disrespectful or make others uncomfortable? If I can attend, what should I do or not do? I don’t know how a service goes or if there’s anything I should be prepared for (like in a Catholic church, the peace be with you thing or not taking the sacrament if you aren’t baptised, etc). Is it something I should ask a rabbi about and get permission first?
TL;DR: I want to learn about Judaism and I don’t want to inadvertently fuck up or accidentally disrespect anyone as an outsider who doesn’t know what I’m doing, please advise how to go about this, thank you and I hope nothing I asked was at all offensive