Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Celebrating Simchat Torah in a Closet in Taipei

By Sarah Chen for Kveller

“Let’s go to Simchat Torah.” I said. “It’ll be fun.”

TaipeiMy husband isn’t Jewish, but he can power through the transliterated Hebrew in the Reform siddur (prayer book) with the best of them. He was skeptical, but my promise of fun (and possibly dessert) won out.

Having never celebrated the holiday growing up, the only reason I had any inkling it would be fun was because of the only other time I ever celebrated. In a closet in Taipei.

That’s where the Jews meet. A small room–a nicely converted supply closet room, really–hosts some Jewish literature, a small table, a few chairs, and an honest to goodness Holy Ark.

I was there as a recent college grad, interning at the embassy. Although Taiwan’s Jews are few and mostly foreign born, anyone who wishes to attend services is always welcome to the annex of Ritz (Landis) Hotel. There, you’ll find an Orthodox service complete with a kiddush on any regular Shabbat.

There’s rarely enough for a minyan. Since the room was too small to separate the sexes as tradition requires, I would sit squished against the back right corner of the room.

Simchat Torah morning services lasted an hour or two, and as we broke for lunch, the congregants sniffed around for lunch buddies. The well-heeled, fashionable Brazilian in the Armani suit was in town on business. The casual Brit in a button down and khakis was freelancing and teaching English. Then there was me, the college grad intern.

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