By Stephanie Rosenau
Walking into the synagogue in the Jewish section of Vienna, I noticed the beautiful blue vaulted ceiling, the dark wood that lined the walls and the sea of kippot in the men’s section below. It felt familiar, and it felt good to be in shul after an emotional week on a mission in Odessa, Ukraine with THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. My siddur was in German and Hebrew and I tried to compare the two languages to help me understand my bubbie’s first language, Yiddish. We chanted the morning service, listened to the Torah and enjoyed the barber shop-like quartet that complimented the chazan. In all, seven people from this mission participated in the service.
One of the highlights of the service was when Rabbi Steven Fink of Oheb Shalom of Baltimore was given an aliyah. He shook the hands of all the men on the bima and participated in a minhag (tradition) of the shul. After each aliyah, the Rabbi asked the person who just completed the aliyah to share the names of the individuals who was in need of a mishaberach (pray for the healing of the sick). It was a joy to see a member of the Baltimore community participate in a tradition unique to a community 5,000 miles away.
In the past, I have participated in Shabbat services outside of the United States. It has always been amazing to me to be able to walk into a shul anywhere in the world and take part in a service that marks the day of rest and unites the Jewish people. This service was even more special because I was able to connect to the Jewish community around the world while still being a part of our extraordinary Jewish community in Baltimore.