A bloke emails:
Hello Mr. Ford,
I am writing to you because I would like to request your advice on a religous matter. You compiled a website reviewing LA area synagogues, and I think you might be able to help me. I am a Jew (through my mother’s side only) who was raised completely secular (in a family that was extremely hostile to all forms of religion) and I was an atheist for much of my life. Long sotry short, I am now trying to become an observant religious Jew. I want to get my own tefillin, however they are extremely expensive for me. Do you know if any LA area Jewish centers would be able to help me out? I don’t mind getting used or even damaged hand me downs for Judaica things at all. To be honest, I am massively in debt and I have absolutely no extra money. Are there any Jewish centers or shuls that might help me in the LA area? I’m not Hasidic but… I was thinking I should try Chabad for help? You and I also have similar political views so I was very happy to discover your website! Its great to know there are Jews like you out there.
By the way, I don’t actually live in LA but am coming next month to see some doctors, so my plan is to visit Jewish places/centers at the same time, after or before that day. I am in the inland empire maybe 2.5 hours east from LA. Could you as well perhaps recommend a book for newly religious Jews that would advise me as to all of my Torah obligations? Also can you recommend a good siddur for me that has English and Hebrew and has every prayer I could ever need? I can’t read Hebrew yet unfortunately. In additional to all of the above, I would be very grateful for any other suggestions or thoughts you may have. Thank you very much!
Think in terms of relationships (with people and with
institutions)… and then as these develop, everything will naturally fall into place, including tefillin.
If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t ask. I’d just start going to a morning minyan at a Chabad… Don’t begin your journey asking for things…Just show up and when appropriate, let people know you want to learn and grow in your yiddishkeit.
To Live As A Jew by R. Donin is a good beginners guide. Every major siddur has Hebrew and English, so RCA Artscroll publishes a good
one. There are many good ones.
When you start a relationship with a shul by asking for things, you will likely be viewed as a shnorrer rather than a contributor. That’s the social kiss of death. So go into shul with a smile on your face, be friendly and appropriate, and don’t tell people your troubles until you have established a relationship with them and they are genuinely curious and then share just one…and let time go by, and then perhaps share one more.