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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Katharina Brandt, now called Katherine Small and nicknamed Sparky, has just arrived at Beth Kehillah with her family on their first Sabbath in Atlantic City. It’s quite a shock to see not everyone walks to synagogue. Though the Conservative Movement issued a Responsa permitting driving on the Sabbath for that sole purpose in 1950, the official position in 1938 forbade it.

Sparky’s eyes widened when she saw a few people getting out of cabs, and a few more arriving on bicycles. “Mutti, Vati, are you sure this isn’t a Reform congregation?” she whispered.

“The people we spoke with gave us a detailed list of all the synagogues and other Jewish establishments in this city and the nearby suburbs,” Mrs. Small said. “Beth Kehillah was listed as Conservative. A few people back home probably secretly drove or rode bicycles too. The polite thing to do is pretend you didn’t see it. Embarrassing someone is compared to murder.”

“If they don’t live in a city with a synagogue, why don’t they spend the weekend here at a hotel or with friends?”

The eight lines end here. A few more follow to close this portion.

“That’s between them and God. I don’t approve of it either, but perhaps this is the only way they can get any Jewish connection in their lives. Not everyone is lucky enough to come from a religious family or community, or to have strong personal beliefs to sustain oneself without family or community support.”

“They’re not getting out of a cab or parking a car a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way so no one sees them!” Gary protested. “They’re letting everyone see how assimilated they are!”

“People in America are different,” Mr. Small said. “We’ll serve as an example to them. They might be inspired to become more religious.”

8 thoughts on “WeWriWa—Unexpected transportation

  1. I think the assimilation might be the other way around. It’s interesting these weird laws that were put in place that really have nothing to do with religion, but are strictly political.

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  2. I know some religious faiths shun the use of vehicles, either on the Sabbath or all the time. I think it has to do with showing devotion/respect to God, is that true? I’m certain it was easier to do so when your place of worship was within walking distance and not miles and miles away. The Smalls really will have to come to grips with the differences that are found in America. I wonder if they will change their ways after awhile. Great snippet!

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    1. The not driving on the Sabbath or Yomim Tovim (holidays) has to do with starting a kind of fire in the engine. There are 36 prohibited actions on the Sabbath, and rabbis in the modern era have interpreted some of them as applying to things like electricity. There are also differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, people with roots in Eastern/Central Europe and Spain/Portugal. The Sephardim tend to be more lenient, even the Orthodox. The Responsa permitting driving was made in response to the huge movement to suburbia, where synagogues were no longer right in the neighborhood or a short distance away.

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  3. Always a good history lesson on your blog! I enjoyed the snippet. 🙂

    I read on your page that you’ve had trouble with a family member. My heart goes out to you. It’s so hard to understand how family can turn. I hope things get resolved–and that you get the rest of your belongings out of storge. 🙂

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  4. I certainly foresee trouble ahead, especially with the final comment about trying to serve as an example to a well established community…always so educational to learn all the details of the time and place. Enjoyed the snippet!

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