I have been missing home lately, a feeling that intensified as the Jewish High Holidays approached. For seven years, I lived far from any family and scrambled every year to find a “home” for the holidays. Since 2002, I have been fortunate to live near close family with whom to celebrate. When I planned this trip in early 2015, I worried about what I would do when the holidays arrived.
It turns out any time I spent worrying was wasted. I knew one couple in Buenos Aires before arriving. She’s originally from here, but lived in the US for many years and ended up in Washington, DC, where she met him, who is American, at a potluck Shabbat dinner (that I also was at, and is how I met them both). This is the couple that took me out to eat on my first night in town, introducing me to the hours people in Bs As keep.
They invited me to join them on Sunday night as the holiday began. They belong to a Conservative synagogue; I grew up in the Reform movement. If I were to attend a Conservative service in the US, I probably would not know the tunes for the prayers and there probably would be more Hebrew than I am accustomed to. I was thinking about these differences being added to the fact that the normally English part of the service would be in Spanish, and expected to feel glad I was in synagogue but unsettled because it was unfamiliar.
Once again, the time I spent worrying was wasted. Most of the experience was just like being at home. The atmosphere felt familiar: people greeting each other, kids running around, and me mentally noting who was dressed inappropriately. Almost all of the tunes were familiar, and they used the special High Holiday version* frequently. I understood as much of the sermon here as I usually do at home. But unlike at home, I didn’t fall asleep once here.
The differences were Argentine. The 7.00 service started just before 7.30; most people didn’t even arrive until close to 7.15. The service was a little more than an hour, after which we had to walk home and feed the children. Therefore, we sat down for the adult’s dinner at about 10.15, and I got home at 1.15 am.
The food was homemade, traditional, and delicious, including a stuffed challah (which seems to be the trend this year based on Facebook posts), matzo ball soup, chicken, and apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year. Basically everything a Jewish girl far from home could ask for.
To all who celebrate: L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi, May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.
*If you follow the link to listen, I’m referring to the tune under the heading “High Holiday melody.” In the service, there was a choir and organ in addition to the cantor, just like at home.