My daughter got married on Sunday night. The next day a friend emailed me the following message: “I wanted to point out something that may not ‘totally’ be obvious to you but was to me: There was a whole lot of LOVE last night; you are truly beloved by your friends!!! “. I did see it and feel it, not only on their faces, but in their entire being as they “big-hugged” my progressively perspiring body.
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The reason I’m sharing this is because I’m not unique in this matter. Many of my fellow Shul members receive the same love at their Simchas. Part of this is due to the fact that we have a Shul environment where deep friendships can grow generating the love and connection that’s such an important part of Jewish life.
In the physical world, things are generally owned or enjoyed by each person (or family) separately which creates divisions of sorts. You have your car, house, clothes and food and I have mine. But in the infinite spiritual world, your possession of spirituality doesn’t create division. In fact your growth is often a catalyst for mine. When a Shul is built on a growth foundation of Torah, Tefillah and Chesed, the members can connect at a very deep level as they grow together.
There’s also a need to create a camaraderie among the members. People need to talk, eat and laugh together on a regular basis. Events such as kiddushim are a part of it, but on a regular basis people need to be comfortable shmoozing with their co-members. I will point out that this comradeship can lead to a conflict with the kedushah needed for a Shul. But like many things in Judaism we have to walk the fine line and integrate both concerns.
The last point is that in the same Shul not everyone will necessary feel the same degree of love. This is partially due to the fact that people serve and give conditionally. You need to give unconditionally without expectations. Relationships built on reciprocity are limited by nature. Serve your shul, give to others, express your concern, share a word, flash a smile – with no expectations. Perhaps you’ll feel the love at your next Simcha, and even if you don’t, keep on giving, smiling and sharing just the same.
7 thoughts on “Building A Shul With A Whole Lotta Love”
You post point, “No Expectations” is key!
Camaraderie among synagogue members is a plus.
I humbly suggest that the starting point of that camaraderie is that synagogue members NOT spread rumors about each other.
At one shul we belonged to, the Rav was able to implement a policy that all members should meet or exceed his stated kashrus standard in their homes. As a result, member families were frequent Shabbos guests at each other’s homes.
quote: “The last point is that in the same Shul not everyone will necessary feel the same degree of love. This is partially due to the fact that people serve and give conditionally. You need to give unconditionally without expectations. Relationships built on reciprocity are limited by nature. Serve your shul, give to others, express your concern, share a word, flash a smile – with no expectations. Perhaps you’ll feel the love at your next Simcha, and even if you don’t, keep on giving, smiling and sharing just the same.”
I think that if someone has a feeling, it is inappropriate for us to judge that feeling. especially if it is a feeling of lack.
the point in a shul is to create a warm and inclusive environment. I agree that there is no way to guarantee anyone or everyone the exact experience which they want. but we should be continually asking, are we reaching everyone who needs it?
some people do not need shul to be their main source for community. for those who do, then we who are already affiliated should be constantly checking to see if we are reaching them.
quote: “There’s also a need to create a camaraderie among the members. People need to talk, eat and laugh together on a regular basis. Events such as kiddushim are a part of it, but on a regular basis people need to be comfortable shmoozing with their co-members. I will point out that this comradeship can lead to a conflict with the kedushah needed for a Shul. But like many things in Judaism we have to walk the fine line and integrate both concerns.” end quote.
excellent point. excellent, excellent. yes, we should not ever allow social interaction to detract from the kedushah of the shul. however, if a person sits down in your row who is new to the shul, or alternately is still trying to get to know people, then it is important to wish them good shabbos, and to take a minute to ask them how they are, what’s up, etc.
similarly, if someone sits down near you whom you don’t know that well, it is usually a good idea to say hello, find out what’s up. sometimes that is an important opportunity to find out more and to get to know them. it is not helpful to simply wait until kiddush, especially since sitting together in a shul is a great opportunity to get to know others.
that’s the conundrum, since sitting in shul is not the time when we are supposed to do any talking. however, a person who wishes to help build a warm, inclusive community should find some way to communicate at least a little bit with those who are seated near him.
of course, if the guys sitting around you are your normal chevrah, then there’s no need to make a constant flow of chatter. but you should still check on them a little bit anyway if you want. after all, even the guys in the regular crowd may sometimes need a little hello sometimes. :-)
and of course, no one expects you to say hello to every single new face, or even to each new person who is seated near you. we are all only human. it’s just not realistic to expect anyone to single-handedly interact and socialize with each and every new face or marginal person who might need it.
however, the key is that if we all pitch in and all do our part, and try to show real strength and energy at this, then the gradual result of a group effort can be a community and a shul which is truly inclusive, accepting for all, and supportive and helpful for those new folks who are trying to find a community within the shul itself. glad that we can discuss these ideas here. thanks. :-)
There is a lot of friendly informal interaction at adult ed classes.
Regrettably, I don’t feel the same level of caring and friendship at my shul. Part of that I admit is my own fault; I should be more outgoing and friendlier (although it’s difficult when one does not want to talk during the davening, and most ladies have to run out before the end in order to get Shabbos lunch ready). Part of it is the demographics; most of the women of the shul have very young children and babies, so they don’t usually come to shul, being that their most important mitzvah is right at home. Also it involves personal choices: my husband and I chose to follow our Rabbi, the Mora D’Asra, out of his old shul and into this small shtibl where the Rabbi is the King (there’s no “membership meetings,” no “Board of Directors,” no “Rituals Committee”), the shul is in the Rabbi’s house, and whatever he says, goes.
Most of my longtime friends stuck to the “other” shul or joined the “new” shul on a different block. Many older people left due to one issue, which I won’t mention here. Some longtime members went on Aliyah, leaving not only the neighborhood but the entire country. The current shul membership is mostly comprised of younger families as opposed to grandparents like me and my husband. I try to be kindly and friendly as much as possible (“What an adorable Purim costume your daughter has!”) but our shul does very few community activities, being again that most of our membership is comprised of busy working parents with young children.
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