In this class, we have been studying the fieldwork of the past. It is now time to try this ourselves.
As described in the Syllabus and discussed at class meetings, this semester we will be complementing our study with three field trips to local Jewish congregations. They are all located in Berkeley, in the vicinity of the UC Berkeley Campus.
On Tuesday, September 18, we are meeting at Congregation Beth El for our first field trip of the semester and attend part of the services for the 2nd Day of Rosh Hashanah (New Year).
Congregation Beth El is located at 1301 Oxford Street in Berkeley. Its premises occupy the block between Oxford and Spruce.
Google Maps link: http://goo.gl/maps/Z89Nc
If you are interested in the history of this congregation, do keep in mind that The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life holds a collection of Congregation Beth El records (a description is available here).
Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El was organized by thirty-five families in 1944. It was founded as a liberal congregation that was guided by reverence for tradition. It moved to a location on Arch and Vine Streets in 1950. In 1951, it joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Its school building was erected in 1958. By 1986, it numbered over 325 families.
The collection contains the minutes of the congregation (1972-1984); by-laws; reports; materials relating to its religious school; flyers and brochures; and lists of the congregation’s officers and members; a report from the Congregation’s Committee on Affiliation (1972), which examined the possibilities of an alternative or supplemental affiliation of the synagogue; a dedication booklet (1981); a description of its stained glass windows; a copy of resolutions considered by the congregation in 1981 that reflect a variety of socio-political concerns; and congregational newsletters.
You already know what to look for:
- Prayer books (where they are located, in what languages they are written, etc.)
- Attire (how are people dressed? differences between men and women?)
- Behavior: standing, sitting, singing, clapping, etc.
- Music: is there a cantor? a rabbi? “who says what”?
- Clergy/Congregants interactions
- Language(s) of prayer