Things I Learned While “Shul Shopping”
In the 16 years in which I was not a congregational Rabbi, I had the opportunity to ” shul hop”. For those unfamiliar with this interesting phrase, it means experiment with attending different synagogues. Actually, Ken and I belonged to three synagogues in that time, experiencing the wonderful and not so wonderful aspects of each.
We learned A LOT! We found out just how crucial it is to be welcomed and embraced in the community. We learned how much it mattered that we felt like WE mattered, that we were recognized and greeted when present, that we were missed when absent, that we were invited to people’s homes and that people enthusiastically accepted invitations from us. We learned how great it felt when people asked us if we were going to synagogue events and asked if we could meet up with them. We unfortunately learned a lot at some places about being ignored, feeling lonely, thinking ourselves insignificant and not quite good enough.
I came away believing firmly that it truly doesn’t matter in a synagogue if a person knows the prayers, can read the Hebrew, is as observant as the Rabbis or anything else that one can learn or take on. People can be completely happy in a community without any of those things IF they feel warm, included and cherished, not just by the clergy, but by each other.
I came away from that kind of experience knowing just what I would want to ensure if I ever served a congregation again. And…here I am, blessed to work at CBD with an incredibly caring and devoted colleague, Rabbi Ohriner and with all of you
This is a time of wonderful change and growth in our community. New Rabbis along with the continued presence of our valued emeritus, new building, and wonderfully, many new CBD members. It is a perfect time to heighten our awareness of what matters most here at CBD and it is the reason for the design of our new building- feeling included and a part of an extended family. So, as Rabbi of community engagement and outreach, my FIRST concern is making sure that our CBD slogan is true, that there really is a place for everybody at CBD.
If we make sure that all of us already connected to our synagogue feel happy here, we ourselves will be the best advertising about CBD to others unaffiliated in he community.
With this in mind, we are very involved in reaching out to all of you, whether new or long time congregants of all ages and stages of life to help you connect to one another in ” micro-communities” called Havurot and to create wonderful opportunities to socialize, celebrate and learn and support one another as extended family. In this issue of the Dvar you will see a description of what a Havurah is and the positive dimensions it can add to your life and the lives of your family. Many, many people who grew up as a part of their parent’s havurah have a true sense of what a ” village” is and even in adulthood, still look at members of the havurah as their closest adult relationships.
We are, in addition, looking for members of CBD to volunteer to have your ” antennae up” at shabbat services to reach out to people who you may not recognize and welcome them to our congregation. We want to make sure that visitors and new community members do not come to CBD and go home not having been integrated in some way into the life of the community. If you can volunteer to help be a matchmaker on Shabbat every couple of months, please let me, or Margie Pomerantz know.
A Beit Knesset- House of Community, has to be the place where all of us, whether we have been here 50 years or 5 minutes, know that we matter and that people will notice and engage with us when we attend and, if we are generally present, notice and care if we are not.
This is a time of newness and excitement for our synagogue. May the bright, fresh and welcoming environment we begin to build physically, match the joyful, open and embracing environment we create socially and spiritually, for all of us, together.