So we just moved. Thus, the reason there was no blog last week. Apologies to anyone who was looking for it. It was kind of a crazy week. We have lived in the same house for 30 years. So many memories. We moved just 4 miles away to a smaller condo.
We lived in a home that was built in 1916. We gave it some modern upgrades like a new bathroom and kitchen. Our new condo is very up to date in terms of technology. Turning the lights on and off requires a consult with an electrical engineer. We won’t have to deal with the lawn, our garden, home repair, and the dreaded snow shoveling. We moved from a very small street with maybe 12 houses where everyone knew everyone’s name.
Except for the guy in the brown house who spent most of his time at the Jersey Shore for the past 30 years.
Conversations between my wife Linda and I are now about community stuff. Who are our new neighbors? Will we like them? Will they like us? Does our development of 73 units have any social activities to bring people together?
Whether it be where you live, where you work, and even where you pray, people are looking for friends, to be cared about, and to care about others. This is how communities come about.
We know from all of the studies and articles that have been written that Jews are not breaking down synagogue doors for Shabbat worship or Hebrew School. Maybe some people will find their way to a synagogue because their parents have ingrained in them that is the right thing to do, to join. To give their children some Jewish education and prepare them for that right of passage – the B’nai Mitzvah – when they are 13. But even for this, the landscape has changed with Chabad, and the ability to hire a rabbi privately to celebrate such an important simcha.
How do we engage adults in synagogue life? What’s in it for them? What is in it for me? How can we help them find community and connection in the synagogue?
Many people, including me, are talking about the need for engagement. Last week, my friend Debbie Joseph joined in with a recent blog talking about how organizations like synagogues should be willing to take risks, experiment, and not just do what they have always done ingrained by old behavior patterns.
I remember a story that Rabbi Michael Matuson shared with colleagues many years ago. He was talking shop with a veteran Southern Baptist preacher at a neighboring church. He told Michael “if you always do what you have always done, you are always going to get what you always got.” He said it with a heavy southern accent that left an impact on me.
The point here is to be willing to take a risk and try new stuff.
I don’t think there is a handbook yet on engagement. And as we know, every synagogue is different and has its own quirks. Common sense tells us that communities are built and most effective when relationships are the focal point. Whether it be the synagogue clergy and staff, board members and other veteran congregants, relationships with every congregant need to be personal and meaningful.