The music became faster, and dozens of people got up from their pews, joined hands, and began to dance around the church. It was actually more like shuffling, an underwater hora, since the aisles were way too narrow. Everyone was smiling, even though it looked very awkward. I remained firmly seated.
The music slowed and people returned to the pews for the end of the service, but I was too distracted by the novelty of it all to pay any more attention. This congregation was as strange as the first, but far less creepy. I was intrigued and wary. It seemed the kind of place that could suck you in, cult-like, for the long term, a phenomenon I knew quite well from online groups, bad jobs, and what I perceived as my friend M.'s extreme involvement. I was still recovering from my last bout of community, a bunch of musicians with whom my ex and I had been intertwined for years. Then we broke up and he got half the friends, and I couldn't figure out how to keep the other half without hurting too much. So I stopped trying. Membership in a community, I concluded, required the growth of armor in order to repel a heaping of petty jealousies, competition, and gossip. It took a lot of time and work, with no guarantee that the benefits--friendship, support--would follow. I had just started a new job and was already deeply plugged into the speedy and endlessly fecund world of New York media. This synagogue looked as if it could be an equally interesting adventure, but my time was limited. And I liked my independence.