Ear­li­er this week, Anna Solomon wrote for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing about Jews in the West and a grandmother’s secrets. Her nov­el, The Lit­tle Bride, is now available.

We don’t belong to a syn­a­gogue. My hus­band and I have defend­ed this in var­i­ous ways over the years. We wouldn’t go enough. It costs a lot. We’ll join when our daugh­ter is old enough to go to Hebrew School. But beneath all these jus­ti­fi­ca­tions – at least for me – there’s a less prac­ti­cal, more spir­i­tu­al con­cern: the syn­a­gogues we vis­it don’t feel like home.

I grew up in Glouces­ter, Mass­a­chu­setts, part of a small, tight­ly-knit com­mu­ni­ty of Jews, all of whom went to the only syn­a­gogue in town. The syn­a­gogue had orig­i­nal­ly been a church, but to me, as a child, it was per­fect. I knew the smell of the wood­en pews, the sound of the rab­bi singing (there was no can­tor), the feel of my tights on the base­ment rec hall tiles. My moth­er had been tak­ing me since I was six months old and more than any­thing else, I felt known and loved there, espe­cial­ly by the old­er peo­ple who ruf­fled my hair and kissed my cheeks.

There was one man I loved more than all the rest: Mau­rice, a Sephardic Jew from Egypt who sat with me at ser­vices every Sat­ur­day morn­ing in the two years lead­ing up to my bat mitz­vah. I loved Maurice’s soft voice, his accent, his kind eyes wink­ing at me as we turned the pages of the prayer book togeth­er, and the beau­ti­ful Sephardic tunes he sang.

A few years ago, the Glouces­ter syn­a­gogue burned to the ground. I felt dev­as­tat­ed yet dis­tant – we were liv­ing in Brook­lyn at the time – and didn’t dare go vis­it the spot until the rebuild­ing of a new tem­ple had begun. Final­ly, this past sum­mer, the new syn­a­gogue was com­plet­ed. It’s about as dif­fer­ent as it could be from the old one: mod­ern lines, a soar­ing roof line, sand-col­ored bricks that evoke Israel.

In Sep­tem­ber, I entered the new build­ing for the first time: I was there with my musi­cian friend Clare Bur­son to per­form a lit­er­ary-musi­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion based on my first nov­el, The Lit­tle Bride.

The room in which we per­formed – with high ceil­ings and white walls – felt some­what ster­ile at first. There was a dif­fer­ent feel to the place, a dif­fer­ent smell, a dif­fer­ent qual­i­ty of light with­out the old stained glass win­dows. And then, as peo­ple began to arrive, there were dif­fer­ent faces. Many of them I knew, but many I didn’t, and more impor­tant­ly, many peo­ple whose faces I longed to see were gone, includ­ing Maurice.

These absences hit me hard as I got up to intro­duce our per­for­mance. I tried to say some­thing – I’m think­ing of the peo­ple who aren’t here tonight, too” – but I choked up. In the audi­ence, peo­ple nod­ded – many eyes filled with tears. It seemed noth­ing more need­ed say­ing. Clare and I began to play and the room filled with a kind of elec­tric­i­ty, com­ing not only from us but from the audi­ence, too. Peo­ple held hands, and swayed, and lis­tened with such an inten­si­ty they seemed to make their own music.

By the end of the night, I felt com­fort­able in this new place. But it wasn’t mine any­more. It wasn’t home. And some­how know­ing this made me feel free. A cou­ple weeks ago, I took my daugh­ter to a syn­a­gogue near where we live now, in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, and the unfa­mil­iar faces, the strange­ness, didn’t make me want to run away. I liked the ser­vice. I liked the peo­ple. I could see how, with a lit­tle time, it might become a place where we belong.

Vis­it Anna Solomon’s offi­cial web­site here.

Anna Solomon is the author of Leav­ing Lucy Pear and The Lit­tle Bride, and a two-time win­ner of the Push­cart Prize. Her short fic­tion and essays have appeared in pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing The New York Times Mag­a­zine, One Sto­ry, Ploughshares, Slate, and more. Coed­i­tor with Eleanor Hen­der­son of Labor Day: True Birth Sto­ries by Today’s Best Women Writ­ers, Solomon was born and raised in Glouces­ter, Mass­a­chu­setts, and lives in Brook­lyn with her hus­band and two children.