These words by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, zt”l, have always resonated with me: The synagogue is where Jews are made, where the individual soul and the community are joined…Only the, synagogue creates Jews child by child, family by family…
Jewish organizations, agencies, institutions, and chavurot are so important to engage and contribute to Jewish life. But, with all my heart, I do believe that it is the synagogue that is the foundation of Jewish life. Would you expect to hear such a thing from a rabbi? Probably. Sure, I am invested in this enterprise. But it is certainly not for job security. There is no other institution or center in the Jewish community that can bring people together, challenge their sensibilities, encourage a search for a transcendent God, and expect a standard of ethics beyond reproach.
And yet, we live in a time where personal connections are becoming harder and harder. Aside from the economic of being social (for some, that is a challenge), we look around and see people on some sort of phone, tablet, or screen. Kids can be around the table communicating without even speaking to one another.
Yes, as we see a greater distance in relationships, there is a yearning by many if not most to find meaning in their lives. The synagogue is the address that can bring spiritual responses to human joys and crises. It isn’t simply about doing what you are told because that is Tradition! It is about embracing a tradition that can shed light on life…real life!
One of my teachers, Rabbi Larry Hoffman, helped me to understand that the synagogue isn’t simply about the building or the programs or even the rabbi. It is to be a place of homecoming. People want to be known, cared for, to contribute to something powerful and vital, and to make a difference. The synagogue can receive all who yearn to be known. To be accepted for who you are. To be embraced, but also to be challenged and stimulated to journey forward. We can’t only be “receivers” always looking to be filled up, but contributors in an intimate relationship. We contribute by showing up for others, supporting the community through tzedakah, sharing our hopes and dreams together, and bringing up our tzures (life’s challenges) to find comfort. This is living in Covenant (Brit) with God and with our People.
This past year, I have seen some amazing acts of generosity of tzedakah and of spirit. I have seen people give their all to make this a place of meaning and power. I have seen sheer joy and the depths of sadness. I love it how people come together here. Even more so when folks who haven’t been so involved get to see how a community like our synagogue can make a difference in our lives, and yes…in our world.
So for all of you who give, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. For all of you who journey through our different gateways, I hope it has been enriching and compelling. For those of you who are still unsure about where you are and how to find your own connection, give us a call. Let’s chat. Let’s find a way to help you tap into the power of being part of a sacred community like ours.