I tend to subscribe to a relatively liberal and open version of Judaism. Indeed, my services of choice at Brown RISD Hillel involve a few dozen students sitting barefoot in a circle to sing psalms and talk about their feelings on Friday nights. I'm used to leaders giving out frequent instructions so newcomers know what's going on, and to occasional opportunities to reflect on the prayers and bible portions being read. So I probably would have felt a bit out of place at any Orthodox Sephardi Rosh Hashanah service, even if it hadn't been held in Tunisia a few days after attacks on the U.S. Embassy. Indeed, the Orthodox service's familiar sense of foreigness was actually quite comforting -- I felt as lost and misguided as I always do during these kinds of services in the States. I arrived at the Jewish synagogue in La Goulette (a suburb of Tunis) quite early, because I didn't want to risk walking in late and completely disrupting the prayers. The only people there at the time were the Rabbi -- whom I had met the week before -- and a few of his children. He welcomed me and handed me a prayer book exclusively in Hebrew and French, and pointed me toward the empty women's section in the back. Unlike most synagogues I've attended in the past, this one separated men and women but didn't try to hide them from view. The women's section was behind the men's, but it lacked any curtains or mehitzah that would have kept me from seeing what was going on. For me, that was quite a nice thing, since no other women showed up for any of the services I attended in La Goullette. I might not have been sitting with a group (or able to sneak a glance at page numbers to keep myself on track), but I could at least see what was going on. A dozen and a half men of varying ages and dress filed in over the next 20 minutes, and the service began. I recognized some of the prayers, but found it a bit challenging to sing along. The songs were beautiful and melodic, but it seemed like the leaders had mashed all the different verses together into a single many-syllabled word, as seems common in Orthodox services. I quickly gave up on understanding the prayers and following along, so I instead took the opportunity to examine the synagogue and take in my surroundings. It was beautiful inside, even though its rough exterior gave no indication that a religious building was inside. Before night fell, light streamed in through stained-glass windows. Along the blue and white tiled walls were plaques commemorating fallen community members. Before night fell, light streamed in through stained-glass windows. It was a lovely scene of Meditteranean tranquility, accented with Hebrew letters. The evening service ended after just an hour, and all the men shook hands and wished each other a "Shanah Tovah." Enough people in the room seemed like they avoided physical contact with women outside their families that I didn't try to grab anyone's hand. Instead, I followed the Rabbi -- Daniel Cohen -- to his family's home just a few meters away. We were immediately greeted by a gaggle of children in matching outfits. The family includes six sons and four daughters, the youngest of whom was born just two weeks ago. We set up a table for 12 outside in the courtyard, and made kiddush over the kosher red wine that the family makes in their home. We then moved through the traditional Sephardi Rosh Hashanah seder. It essentially involves eating small bites of delicious fruits and meats while saying short prayers. I'd never participated in a Sephardi seder before, and I found myself taking mental notes so that I could bring back some of their traditions to my family at home. I loved seeing how involved the kids could get in the numerous rituals and prayers. Ritual complete, we started the more relaxed eating portion of the evening, and devoured delicious bowls of couscous with meat, beans, eggs. If bits of challah hadn't littered the table, it wouldn't have seemed at all like a traditionally Jewish meal to me at that point. Our dinner conversation -- at least the portions I could understand -- toggled between American presidential politics, the violence at the embassy, and the difference between our religious traditions. I learned a bit about the children's schoolwork and lessons, and about what sort of plans the synagogue had for the coming months. I had hoped to come back for the rest of the week's services and to see the synagogue packed to the gills for the Kol Nidre service over Yom Kippur, but I won't be back for another few weeks. Because of the travel warning posted for Tunisia this weekend, I've needed to evacuate to the South of France. I'll be staying at the Institute Catholique in Toulouse for the next 3 weeks or so, until the situation in Tunis is more calm. It's frustrating to be away from Tunisia during this religious time -- I'm losing the opportunity to spontaneouslu meet all sorts of community members, just when I got my bearings in this new country. I can't wait to come back.