While we were walking up, a voice called out, "Is there a kohen in the group?" (A kohen is a priest in the Torah, and the word now refers to one of the three tribal affiliations in Judaism, passed from father to son. In most Orthodox and Conservative synagogues, it is customary for a kohen to recite the blessing before the start of the Torah reading.)
I said, "Yes, I'm a kohen."
The response: "Well, come on, we are going to read from the Torah and we need you." I got so nervous that I almost forgot my Jewish name, Zacharia, and completely forgot my father's, ben Yosif Laib.
They brought me down to the bimah and put a tallis (prayer shawl) on me. I asked for the transliteration card for the service - it's been a while. But when I looked at it, it was in Russian. Ouch.
So someone said the prayer aloud and I repeated it after him. When we finished, I was so relieved.
It was the highlight of my trip. I was nervous, excited, and feeling so special - all at the same time.
The rabbi said he had a son who was a rabbi in Philadelphia. I'm still trying to find him.
Sea Kaplan writes from Chesterbrook.
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