“I just feel so helpless!”
It’s a common refrain among friends and family, one you’ve likely heard recently. This phrase can refer to caring for a loved one who is physically or mentally unwell, or to watching the Amazon wildfires blaze on. It can be about a child who’s having a difficult back-to-school season, or about the rise of immigrant detention centers on U.S. soil. Maybe it’s the 24-hour news cycle linking Jews to disloyalty, or maybe it’s the breaking news of yet another mass shooting. Helplessness tumbles over each of us amidst the anger, sadness, confusion and fear about what it means to be an adult, particularly one who is raising children in 2019. Often, it feels as though there is nothing we can do as the world erupts around us, headline after headline filling our screens and minds.
Here’s what to do: Join a synagogue.
When our country feels more divided than ever, when our government and our news feeds try to split us apart, the most important and powerful thing we can do is gather together in community. When sending your child to school in the morning feels like an act of courage, send them to sanctuary, and sit next to them. When the world feels too heavy, too broken, too irreparable, join us in repairing it. We will hold your hand when you weep, we will celebrate with your children as they grow, we will hold your family in community, not just on Shabbat, and not just on the High Holy Days, but every day.
Join a synagogue because synagogues are the places of joy and renewal and togetherness that we so desperately need today. Join a synagogue because every day there are children here who are celebrated and loved as they take their first steps, as they head to middle school, as they try to figure out for themselves what it means to be Jewish in 2019.
Join a synagogue because there is so much to celebrate. There are people in our community running marathons and organizing protests and helping their children learn to read and housing asylum seekers. There are people knitting and baking challah and playing mahjong and drinking coffee and sitting together in worship because that’s what they need. That’s what we all need. People to know us, people to love us, people to hold us and people to see us.
The fall is a popular season to think about synagogue membership because of the upcoming High Holy Days, a period of time that is meaningful to many. But truthfully, joining a synagogue just to attend High Holy Day services is like using a brand-new laptop only to check your email; there is so much more to take advantage of. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer the opportunity to reflect upon the year behind us and set intentions for the year ahead. Who do we want to be in the next year? Who do we want by our sides in order to be the Jews the world needs us to be?
The 10 Days of Awe this fall at Temple Shalom are going to be beautiful, meaningful and holy; it’s what we plan for all year. But the other 355? That’s where the true meaning of community comes through each and every single day. We find what we’re looking for both in the pages of our High Holy Day prayer books and in the voice of a nervous bar mitzvah student who has been studying for years to get to this moment. It’s in the sounds of the shofar blasting and the joyful noises of our Nursery School toddlers discovering the first fall leaves. It’s on Tot Shabbat, it’s at a Wednesday afternoon adult learning class, it’s within this building and outside of it and it belongs to each of us.
This fall, when you feel helpless, join a synagogue. Bring all of yourself to the sanctuary. We will be here waiting to welcome you.
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