The end of my first academic year at Cambridge is approaching, and it's been an amazing ride so far. I've met lots of wonderful, interesting people, joined a choir, found dance classes, and even found a shape-note group to sing with! (One Monday a month in Norwich. They actually meet every Monday, but it's kind of a schlep, and there are other things that want my attention on Mondays. Once a month, though, I tell them to go hang, and I go sing in Norwich. It does wonders for my outlook on life.)
I gave a talk at the Cambridge Forum for Jewish Studies that went really well, and I'm working that up into a journal article. On Monday, I'm going to a conference on Jewish liturgical music in Leeds, where I'll do the formal debut of my new project, and then spend some time visiting the Reform synagogue in Leeds. I'm actually really looking forward to this trip, since I've never been to Leeds before. It's even further north than Cambridge, so the days will be just a tad bit longer.
Which, I might add, has been a trip in and of itself. The sun rises at 4:30 in the morning these days -- can you believe it? And it doesn't really set until after 9 PM. After the dark of winter, this is a fine reward indeed.
Today, we had some big news for the Cambridge Jewish community. The Reform synagogue in Cambridge, Beth Shalom, has been working for many years on acquiring a building of its very own -- they'd been holding services around Cambridge for over thirty years, in people's houses, at local schools, and most recently, at a Baptist church hall. Well, they finally finished the new building!
On Thursday, I went down to help with the move, but I was assigned to the church end, loading stuff into the vans, so I didn't see the new synagogue until today. We had our very first Shabbat ever in the new building! It's utterly amazing. All new and fresh, with a big sanctuary that has good acoustics and a lovely ceiling and picture window, a big community room, a library, and a bunch of other smaller spaces that we'll figure out what to do with later. It was so new and fresh that you could still smell the building materials. They talk about new-car smell, but no one ever talks about new-synagogue smell. Funny, that. . . Anyway, everyone was thrilled and amazed. I don't think very many of us had ever actually been in a brand-spanking-new synagogue on its first day. Not something that happens very often. I certainly hadn't! We even got to start the service with a couple of special blessings for a new synagogue, and the service leader looked pretty pleased to be saying them.