Appreciating the Quirks of Shul Members

Shuls Are About The People
Shuls are more than a place to pray. They aren’t just minyan factories churning out thrice daily prayer services. Shuls are communities, social groups, places for us to make deep and lasting friendships. Shuls, at their heart, are about the people.

People Have Their Quirks
You don’t have to be an Myers-Briggs expert to know that people have different personality types. Beyond the types, people have flaws and idiosyncrasies. And as much as we often wish that people would behave more like us, we know deep down that a planet full of me-clones would be boring at best, and probably closer to intolerable.

Look For The Strengths
Even if we grant that differences in people make the world a more interesting place, what do we do about the fact that people can be downright annoying? One path is to focus on people’s strengths. Everybody has them, and the more you look for them, the easier it is to find them. It’s a talent that’s worth developing and it will make you a better spouse, parent and friend. Find the strengths and share your findings with others.

Love The Quirks
Finding strengths is doable, but the quirks are a challenge. Personality quirks are hard enough to appreciate, and serious character weaknesses are often intolerable. The key to loving the quirks is appreciating that they are the keys to our lives. We have to overcome them, and often try to change them and it’s difficult, but it’s what we’re here for.

Resisting the Tyranny of the Majority
In Shuls, the membership machine is often looking to eliminate quirky behavior for the benefit of the Shul. It often is stated in the form of “Why should we all suffer, just because Joe is….”. We sometimes must mute bad behavior, but in most cases, the behavior is tolerable and we should just grin and bear it and appreciate the person’s challenges. In Shuls, we need to focus on the individual, not on the collective, it may be counter-intuitive, but it’s the right thing to do.

Shuls are about the people and we all have our quirks. Tolerating, accepting and appreciating the quirks of others makes you a better person and makes your Shul a better place.

5 thoughts on “Appreciating the Quirks of Shul Members”

  1. The timing of this is perfect. Over the past days of Pesach we had a guy in our minyan who some called the “clopper” because prior to any shemone asrei, he would “clopp” three times on the table to “remind” that it was Yom Tov davening (I guess).

    I reminded my son that this guy has an actual name and that to give someone a nickname falls under the category of loshon hora.

    I actually fell into my “”Berditchever mode” as I like to call it and looked for the good points (as you suggested) in this person’s chessed of reminding us that the amidah davening is not “standard”.

    1. Great story, Neil. It seems the person wanted to do a chesed, but it was not a chesed the Shul needed. At least nobody publicly embarrassed the person.

      It’s pretty amazing but there are are somewhat standard rules of when to clop, how much to clop and who can clop.

  2. This is really a general life issue, not just for Jews or shul regulars. The out-of-step people can have something to teach us, about themselves or us.

    1. Bob, agreed. But a Shul binds us together into a situation in which there are more opportunities to grow from the differences in behavior.

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