How Do You Choose a Synagogue?
posted by Dawny Gershkowitz
Some years ago, when my parents z"l moved to Florida, I decided it didn't make sense to go to a temple that had almost no members I knew...it was no longer a spiritual home for me.
So how does a single Jewish woman find a shul that she thinks IS her spiritual home? She goes to services. As a child, I had gone to an Orthodox shul and Orthodox Hebrew School. As an adult, I had gone to a Conservative shul--- I felt like anything was possible.
Living in Arlington, I decided to check the options near me. I did try several local options. This is a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Shuls. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for until I was in the middle of it.
I arrived at Temple Emunah on a Sabbath morning, and I had been there moments when someone introduced herself and welcomed me. She wasn't on the board, she wasn't on a committee, she just saw someone she didn't know and introduced herself.
Temples often feel like places for families, not necessarily for single people. Being a single person in a group of families can be a very lonely experience. This didn't feel that way. So I came back another time to and it happened again. Different person, no agenda, just an effort to make me feel welcome in this community.
I was struck by this over and over. I was impressed by the diversity in the congregants I saw, by the lay leadership of services, the way children could act like children (no 'shhhh!', no 'be seen and not heard'.) I was struck by the warmth and the sense of community.
Not much later, I was struck by the fact that Emunah has two minyanim, a morning and evening service, every day, all year, with almost no exceptions (there have been minyanim with flashlights when the power went out!) Here is a community ready to support those who want to say Kaddesh, who have a yahrzeit, or who just need a few minutes for spiritual relfection.
So I joined Temple Emunah.
At this time of year, people are looking --maybe for a spiritual home, maybe for a High Holiday ticket, maybe just curious-- I have remained at Temple Emunah and found that sense of community remains strong, the warmth and welcoming atmosphere is consistent, and the opportunities for learning, for worship, and for just enjoying a sense of 'Yiddishkeit' continue.
For anyone who is looking, I urge you to come to Temple Emunah some time this weekend and see what I saw.
Friday night, beginning at 5, there will be a BBQ and Kabbalat Shabbat service. Saturday's Synaplex Shabbat includes traditional Davening at 9:30 OR Tai Chi Warm-ups. After the Torah service (beginning at 10:30), there will be a traditional Musaf service OR guided meditation OR (yes, a third choice!) Birkat Kohanim Learning Session. This ancient and sacred tradition is being reintroduced during our Yom Kippur Musaf service. Birkat Kohanim recreates the drama of the religious services in the Holy Temple in Jerusalme over 2,000 years ago.
Sunday morning there is an Open House. Religious School begins this Sunday, and Dr. Jacob Meskin of the Hebrew College will be available to discuss the Me'ah program, and various community members will be avaiable to answer questions take you on a guided tour or just share some refreshments.
And, if you can't come this weekend, come another time-- to a minyan, to a Shabbat minhah and ma'ariv service, for Kabbalat Shabbat, or a Sabbath kiddush, ....I chose a synagogue because of the welcoming, warm, and inclusive atmosphere, the learning, the sharing, and the joy that it brings to being Jewish. How will you choose?
Check this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO_Pw5S0SC0