Another trip to present the Stockholm Progressive group to a small provincial Jewish community yesterday, this time in Uppsala. It was a fairly exhausting evening, hard work but I think productive.
The Uppsala community is fairly small, and dates from immediately after WW2 when a small group of refugees from Europe ended up in the town. They have a flat where they have converted one room into a tiny synagogue, very endearing. Unfortunately only half a dozen people showed up, so we didn't have a minyan (quorum) for a full service. But I led a truncated Friday night service, which went well.
Then we had a small kiddush and a chance to chat. I was a bit annoyed that having invited us to travel to Stockholm and run a service for them, they didn't feed us. EBH had persuaded them that they ought to have some bread and cheese and fruit at least, which they did provide, but that wasn't much of a substitute for supper!
The discussion was extremely lively. The group was about evenly split between elderly Polish and Russian men, and 50-ish Swedish and Russian women. Some of the younger women were very enthusiastic about the service that I ran and the idea of Progressive Judaism, even to the point of being slightly gushing. One of the men in particular was a bit offended by the whole Progressive thing, particularly the fact that I elected to light candles after sunset. And everybody was bombarding me with questions about every possible aspect of Progressive Judaism, whether from the angle of how it's going to save the world and revitalize their community, or from the angle of how far exactly it's destroying everything that is right and good. Strangely enough, I do believe that the aggressive guy meant well, and I got the impression that he liked me personally even if he didn't like my religious approach.
I think I did a reasonably good job of putting across an idea of what Progressive Judaism stands for, anyway, and I was very careful to take an entirely positive and pluralist approach. It was an exhausting session, though, especially with so little to eat. And transport annoyances meant that I didn't get home until nearly midnight, and I was falling over tired by then. Chatting to EBH made the waiting and travelling a lot less unpleasant than it might have been, though.
Since old Polish guys generally have less English than native Swedes, we were using a kind of muddle of English and Swedish (with some Russian and Yiddish thrown in for good measure and Polish for comic effect). There was much general encouragement for me to attempt Swedish, and since the group are almost all immigrants or children of immigrants, they were very firm in pointing out that I would never improve unless I got over my self-consciousness about my flawed speaking. So I was managing mostly in Swedish, even with several people talking at once about quite complex topics. I had to fumble for vocab a few times, but I was certainly communicating. So when it came to drawing the group together to make grace after the meal, I staunchly carried on and made the announcement in Swedish. So that's the first time I've done that, actually made a public speech (albeit a fairly short one) to an audience in Swedish rather than just one-to-one conversation. That feels like a big step forward!