Shacharit (Morning Prayers) at the Jewish High School
By J. Kott-Wolle
Oil on Canvas, 18x18, painted 2017
Original photograph taken – 2017
Prayer in Judaism is an awkward place for me. I went to synagogue every week as a child so I’ve always known the tunes and most of the Hebrew words in the prayer service but I actually don’t have a clue what most of it means. Prayer services have always felt long and repetitive. I’m never sure when to bow or stand and then sit down again and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think about when I’m saying the words. I’m that person who counts how many pages are left in the siddur (prayer book) until the service is over. This void in my knowledge base has been a ‘private shame’ for most of my life. I always felt embarrassed to admit that the shul sanctuary is the place where I feel most out of step with Judaism. I also believed that I was too old to do anything about it. (The year I said Kaddish for my father I finally committed to getting a very rudimentary understanding of the rhythm of the service). When I sent my kids to Jewish Day School parents were always encouraged to sit in during morning prayer services (Shacharit). At first, I thought it was ‘too Jewish’ when I’d see all the kids in their tallit and tefillin. But I was that parent who listened hard when the prayers were being explained and taught to the kindergarten students. I needed that information to round out my personal Jewish literacy. I’m so grateful that all 3 of my kids can walk into any synagogue service anywhere as informed participants and leaders. I envy them.