Shul Shopping

by Eve Roshevsky

One Friday night several years ago, while strolling around my Carnegie Hill neighborhood, I noticed several interesting things about the church at 85th and Park. It was a sign out on the sidewalk advertising an off-off-off Broadway theater’s latest production that first caught my eye. And then, a Jewish service being held in the church sanctuary . . .

Which to attend, I debated? I stopped in to the service, joined the small group of congregants, and was invited to a pot luck supper. I’ve been going back to the Temple for Universal Judaism ever since.

As an unmarried Jewish woman in Manhattan, I was looking for a place to feel part of a religious community, for observance and celebration, spiritual uplift and the companionship of like-minded friends. “Shul shopping,” it’s called.

I had tried Hebrew Union College in the Village for the High Holy Days; Temple Israel with the wonderful Rabbi Judith Lewis; and, finally, “BJ” (B’nai Jeshurun), the celebrated congregation on the West Side. I joined, sang in the choir, went to singles’ events. Yet, even though the liturgy moved me, and the spectacle of dancing-in-the-aisles on in Friday night was thrilling, I felt left out . . . there were cliques; the rabbis were distant; the audience teemed with upwardly mobile yuppies I couldn’t relate to. Then, I took that Shabbat stroll and found my spiritual home, just six blocks from my door.

CDE/TUJ has been a part of our community for 35 years. It was founded as a haven for intermarried couples and continues to welcome Jews from all backgrounds and Christians and others who love them, with a universalistic philosophy that rejects “chosenness” and encourages diversity.

This small congregation, which holds services twice a month and on holidays, is growing vigorously, with new programs of Inter-generational Education and religious action. As a member of the Union for Reform Judaism, CDE/TUJ is especially committed to tikkun olam (“repairing the world). Our clergy have included Rabbi Bruce Cohen (z”l), founder of Interns for Peace; Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, a widely known expert in interfaith dialogue and the newly-appointed Rabbi Ari Fridkis, founder of Torahnyc , a Reform Jewish Outreach organization.

One of the most exciting features of TUJ is our partnership with the Park Avenue Christian Church (PACC), the congregation whose building we share. Together, we attempt to repair our world with a Saturday lunch program serving the needy in our community; and unique interfaith events like the joint annual commemoration of the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Jewish friend, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They who marched together for civil rights and against the Vietnam war in the 60’s are now honored with an annual CDE/TUJ/PACC Heschel-King Award for Interfaith Activism. Rev. James Forbes, formerly of Riverside Church, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, among past honorees, have delivered stirring acceptance speeches.

Every Jew who is new to New York can likewise shop around. They will want to take their time and choose carefully—and definitely, try CDE/TUJ. They will be welcomed into a warm, friendly community of Jews and others who have braved the big city and found a little corner of it in which to pray.

Eve F. Roshevsky is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Temple of Universal Judaism. Visit us at www.tuj.org for more information about the congregation and an invitation to join us for services and other occasions.