I had a wonderful conversation recently with a dynamic, dedicated Rabbi, who is planning on opening a new Shul. He wants to build more than a Shul, he wants to build a community of people on a path of continual spiritual growth. The interesting part was that this Shul was located in an established Orthodox community which already has a number of Shuls.
The conversation highlighted the fact that for a Shul to be a spiritual community, it has to go beyond providing a place for prayer, learning and Jewish experiences. I think the two key aspects for a spiritual community are:
1) a Rabbi to turn to for direction as we navigate through the issues of life
2) a group of peers, to whom people can turn to share their issues and get feedback and possible strategies
It’s not so easy to create such a community. My Shul fulfills these two requirements for many people, and although we share the same Rabbi, different people associate with different peer groups. However, I think there are people in my Shul who would like more peers for support and friendship. And there are people in the larger community who are missing one or both of these essential components.
I’ve been having this discussion both within my Shul and among a group of friends across my larger community. I think it sheds light on the need for gatherings that will facilitate the formation of these peer groups. We’re in the planning stages for these types of gatherings and G-d willing, I’ll share the results in the months ahead.