By Sarah Chen for Kveller
“Let’s go to Simchat Torah.” I said. “It’ll be fun.”
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.
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.
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