My Dad died last May, but in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of his death is next Wednesday. Jewish practice is to recite Kaddish on the anniversary of a death or on the Shabbat (Sabbath) before. It’s not something you do alone; this is one of the prayers that traditionally requires a minyan, a gathering a ten Jewish adults (traditionally, men).

There is one and only one shul near me (Jews of various inclinations use the words synagogue, shul or temple to mean pretty much the same thing. Shul is shorter to type.) It’s a Lubavitcher Chabad, part of the Chassidic movement. Those three unfamiliar words have a ton of history and explanation behind them; the short version is that this shul proclaims that its mission is to serve all Jews in the area, and though they say that “We don’t call ourselves Orthodox, just Jewish, and we serve all Jews,” their practice is very traditional.

There is a cluster of shuls in NW Portland, about half an hour away by car, 45 minutes by MAX light rail. I’m not familiar with the area and don’t know if there’s much parking nearby. THere are two Conservative synagogues, one Reform temple and a Reconstructionist Havurah within a few blocks of each other. I probably lean closest to Reconstructionist, myself. (Their self description is “Reconstructionist Jews espouse a progressive, contemporary approach to Jewish life which integrates a deep respect for traditional, communal Jewish practices with the intellectual and political impulses of democracy and pluralism.”) I don’t know anyone at any of those places, and trying to phone just sends you to a machine.

I’ve spoken to the Rabbi at the Chabad. They had a place to email and he mailed me back promptly and set up a time for a call. I was worried about how unegalitarian they might be. They do have a divider between men and women, but it runs front to back, so men and women sit side by side. I can live with that. But he also told me that since I do have a brother, I am not supposed to say Kaddish for my father. All four of the other shuls are egalitarian, and the Reconstructionist havurah in particular says “Our overall community is progressive, intellectual, honest, egalitarian, and embracing of diversity. We include many interfaith families and people of various ethnic backgrounds and income groups. We are queer-friendly, and the congregation includes members in a wide range of professions.”

So it should be no-brainer, right? But I don’t know. For one thing, the Chabad Rabbi was extremely welcoming. He was very careful to say phrase it as “this is the way we do things, we’re not saying it’s the only right way”, and to tell me that I was very welcome. He specifically said no one would stop me and he himself wouldn’t say anything if I did stand to say Kaddish. He also said if I sent them my dad’s name and his parents names, they’d study a Mishnah (oral teaching) in his honor – even if I didn’t attend myself they would, if I emailed the names. They friended me on Facebook, even. And when I asked around in a liberal Jewish group on Ravelry, lots of people reported very positive experiences with Chabads, even when coming from more liberal backgrounds. And there’s the anthropological aspect – I’ve never really been to a completely traditional service. Might be interesting.

My brother thinks I should just light a candle (Yahrzeit candle, another tradition) and say the blessing myself, but I think I really want the support of a community. So do I just walk in cold to one of the farther away places, where I don’t know anyone but the outlook might be closer to mine, or go to the way more traditional place nearby that’s welcomed me, whose outlook might make me uncomfortable in some respects – but that was gracious and respectful of my concerns?

Another possibility – the Reconstructionist place has a Wednesday minyan. I could do the Chabad on Shabbat and go there on Wednesday – but it’s 8:30-9, so I’d be getting to work around 10 instead of my usual 7AM.

For the record, my dad wouldn’t care much if or where I said Kaddish. As my brother remarked, his Jewish identity was strong but mostly secular.

ETA: Oh, and I forgot to say, this Saturday the Reconstructionist place’s service is a “Camp Havurah service”: a “musical, fun, upbeat Shabbat morning service that features sing-a-long style prayers”. Nice, but maybe not when I want to come say Kaddish.