Do not separate yourself from the community - Pirkei Avot
I decided to add this topic as a writing prompt for Elul since we spend so much time in Synagogue over the High Holidays.
I am a member of a Modern Orthodox synagogue. When I started this spiritual journey, I considered that other Jewish venues may be more open to my situation, but it was the Orthodox tradition that spoke to me.
Overall, everyone at the synagogue has been very nice to me and to my non Jewish husband. When there was a special meal that required tickets, the receptionist very happily charged my husband the member rate even though he isn't a member (I'm not even sure he would ever be considered one anyway).
I have had some very positive experiences at Shul (synagogue). One Shabbat, there was a massive Bar Mitzvah lunch for the congregation. I was hoping to stay for the lunch, but my son was clearly ready for a nap. As I was walking out the door, the Rabbi's wife encouraged me to stay for the Shabbat lunch or at the very least grab some food. I paced with the stroller for a little while before everyone was seated and I managed to get my son to nap. I enjoyed a beautiful lunch all because the Rabbi's wife asked me to stay.
This year though, when the Synagogue renewal form came in, I struggled with the decision to renew. There are some issues of the Shul that kind of bother me. As someone in an interfaith family, I don't expect an orthodox shul to accept my husband as a member. I get that. What I didn't get is that when my son was born, they only wish me Mazel Tov in the newsletter. Couldn't they have said Mazel Tov to Hannah and her husband...spouse...partner...anything?
I keep wondering what will happen for my son's bar mitzvah. Will my husband be required to stand at the back of the room? Will he not be acknowledged at all during the service?
I brought up my concerns to a couple of very close friends whom I also consider mentors (one is a member, one isn't). One friend made a passionate case on how despite the issues of the Shul, we need to support it as a community, because one day, G-d forbid, it may not be there. She also encouraged me to try to be more active in Synagogue life. Volunteer for an event, or participate in Challah baking and let people get to know me better. She also sent me the following article from OU.
These two points from the article is what brought it together for me:
- Membership “gets you” the opportunity to get involved. It allows you to serve on a committee, organize an event, sponsor a kiddush for a simcha or a shalosh seudot for a yahrtzeit so that you can share these events with your community (aka your fellow members).
- Membership is taking ownership and responsibility for the futur
I sent in my check and my membership form and signed up for Rosh Hashanah challah baking. I decided to accept the challenge that my friend (ultimately G-d) has set before me. I will make an effort to go to Shul at least once a month with my son. I will also make an effort to volunteer for a project or event at the Shul.
I will work this year on finding my place in the Shul and in the community.