Culture and religion are social factors that have significant influence on how individuals behave in the society. Analysis of various cultures and religions indicates that they have unique beliefs and traditions. The existence of varied traditions and beliefs affects intercultural communication among people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
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People from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds find it hard to communicate, interact, or worship together because they do not share the same language, traditions, and beliefs. Therefore, this essay examines how Jews behave in their synagogues relative to other cultures and religions.
To examine Jewish culture and religion, my friend and I visited an Orthodox synagogue during the time of worship, which is usually on Saturday (Shabbat). We stayed in the synagogue during the time of worship, from 8am to 12pm. The experience of attending a church service in a synagogue enriched us because we learned about Judaic beliefs, Jewish culture, and behaviors of Jews during worship. What surprised us was the separation of men and women in the synagogue.
Men and women entered into the synagogue through different doors and sat in their respective sections. The reason for separating women and men in the synagogue is to enhance their focus on worship and avoid discrimination based on marital status (Moss, 2013). Before visiting the synagogue, I did not know that Jews separate men and women as in the case of Muslims in their mosques. In this view, I noted that Jews and Muslims share the aspect of gender separation.
Since men and women were in separate sections of the synagogue, they were interacting with each other. Judaic beliefs prohibit congregation from turning the Shabbat, the day of worship, into a social event. Thus, the congregation kept quiet as it listened to the sermon of the day. In the synagogue, Judaic beliefs prohibit applause, use of cell phones, and cameras because they cause disturbances in the holy sanctuary.
When sermon started, the congregation bowed towards the Ark to honor the removal of holy book, the Torah. Additionally, no one was allowed to enter into or go out of the synagogue when the Ark was opened and the Torah removed. Such beliefs make synagogues to be unique places of worship, since people are not at liberty to perform activities that they want. After the sermon, people interacted freely because restrictions were only applicable in the synagogue.
Dressing code in the synagogue was a unique thing that I noticed in the synagogue. Given that the synagogue is a holy place, I noted that men wore suits while women wore dresses, which made them to appear decent. According to Strassfeld and Strassfeld (2012), men should wear a kippah on their head, while women should cover their hair with a headscarf.
The covering of the head signifies humility and acceptance of God as the head of the synagogue. Thus, I observed that all the people in the synagogue dressed well and covered their heads according to Jewish and Judaic beliefs.
The experience of visiting the synagogue on Shabbat enhanced my knowledge about Jewish culture and religion. Gender separation, covering of heads and decent dressing code are some of the Judaic practices in synagogues that are similar to Islamic practices in mosques.
The experience of the synagogue stretched my comfort zone since I thought that Islam and Judaism are distinct religions that do not have anything in common. Therefore, the experience gained and observations made in the synagogue have enhanced my intercultural knowledge, and thus have promoted my intercultural communication.
Moss, A. (2013). Separation in the Synagogue. Retrieved from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/160962/jewish/Separation-in-the-Synagogue.htm
Strassfeld, R., & Strassfeld, S. (2012). Entering a Synagogue. Retrieved from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/entering-a-synagogue/