California Baptist University
This paper is being presented to Professor Julie Goodman, MA in partial fulfillment for the requirements of Cultural Anthropology ANT 225D November 12, 2012.
This paper will discuss my personal experience being in a Jewish setting. It will highlight the importance of Jewish culture and identify the symbols and traditions that are relevant to their beliefs. It will also mention my experience with culture shock from my contemporary American perspective to insight from a traditional Jewish viewpoint.
Reflection of Jewish Culture There are many interesting values and common practices that Jewish people participate in and are reflected by the religion Judaism. Certain practices include commitment to a diet that consists of limited meats, vegetables, and dairy products. They also value the Torah with utmost respect, seriousness, and speak Hebrew fluently.
The first activity I explored was the Fairfax district, which is known to have a Jewish community. I went first to a Jewish bakery and restaurant called “Canter’s; I bought two loaves of pumpkin bread and one cinnamon roll. Afterwards, I visited a Jewish market that sold special meat called “Kosher” meat that consisted of beef, chicken, and fish. I browsed through the small market for anything that generated my interest. I saw many Jewish men roaming the streets of Fairfax wearing Yarmulkes; this was a culture shock for me because I have never seen countless men wearing Yarmulkes in public. I then went to a store that had many Jewish artifacts such as silver Hanukkah candle holders and tapestries. In the store, I saw a man wearing a white cloth with fringes; I asked him what it was and he told me it was a “Tallit”. He then described the Tallit as a prayer shawl worn by Jewish men and women that were pass the age of thirteen. It has four corners with fringes that attach to each corner. In total, there are 613 knots that serve as a reminder of the 613 commandments that Jewish people hope to fulfill.
My second excursion consisted of visiting a Jewish temple called Temple Beth El located in Riverside. I attended their usual ceremony on Saturday October 20th , 2012. The ceremony started with singing hymns in Hebrew from a book that was also written entirely in Hebrew. The people stood up and sang in Hebrew; I stood out of respect although I could not sing. There was a man who was playing a guitar and sang in beat; he also spoke some words from the Torah. This continued for about twenty minutes or so; and then the man allowed a young girl who appeared to around age thirteen to speak at the pedestal. She spoke in Hebrew as she read from the Torah and translated Hebrew to English. She interpreted a lengthy verse from the Torah and applied the lesson to modern day life. She stood in front of the room speaking Hebrew, while behind her lay five beautifully wrapped Torahs, with silver fringe and rich blue velvet. She held one of the five different velvet colored Torahs and then walked between the aisles clutching the Torah in her arms. Everyone in the temple had a blue book which was a published version of the Torah. When the girl came around to each aisle, everyone participated and kissed the blue Torah book , and pressed the blue Torah book against the beautifully engraved Torah which she held closely. When the girl approached my aisle, I did the same as everyone else. I then received a pamphlet from a woman sitting next to me. The pamphlet which read “Megan Benoit, Bat Mitzvah”. It had a picture on the front with a young girl that looked exactly like the girl speaking at the pedestal. The temple ceremony at Temple Beth El, was a ceremony that was dedicated to Megan Benoit’s Bat Mitzvah. While she spoke in Hebrew from the Torah; she used a silver tool that was shaped like a small pencil, I learned later, that this was used as a finger pointer. The words from the Torah