Today is August 20, 2019 -
Our Torah reading this week,
Parshat Vayeira, is one of my favorites. The parsha opens with our patriarch, Abraham, modeling the important mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, or how to properly welcome guests. “And he lifted his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them…” Abraham brought his guests water for washing, food, and drink.
The theme of Jewish hospitality is woven throughout the Torah, calling us to remember how we were mistreated in Egypt and warning us not to oppress the stranger among us. These teachings form the foundation of Hillel’s call to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Why does this particular mitzvah resonate so strongly with me? I credit my upbringing in our community. I’m not suggesting that we are perfect. We are not. But, when it comes to Jewish hospitality, our community excels in a way that is actually rather unique. Let me share a couple of examples from the last two weeks.
Last Wednesday the Schenectady JCC hosted a “meet and greet” for Congregation Beth Israel’s new rabbi and his wife, to welcome them into our community. Approximately one hundred (I’m not good with numbers) community members joined together, with words of welcome by four local rabbis–two Reform, one Conservative, and one Orthodox.
I counted another two rabbis in attendance that did not formally speak at the event. If you are a native, you may not have any idea how absolutely incredible this program was. Other communities simply do not do this. We welcome Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kelman to Northeastern New York. May your time here be long and pleasant.
Our community also had the pleasure of hosting six Israelis from our Eshkol partnership. I would like to personally thank all community members who made their visit so wonderful. During their five-day visit, we welcomed them to home hospitality, all meals, tours, and shopping. Parties were held in their honor. Hundreds of people interacted with them as they shared stories with us about their horrific summer living on the Gaza border. As they have now all returned to Israel, their Facebook pages are plastered with pictures and praises of our community and our hospitality.
For several families in Eshkol, there has been a bit of trepidation about sending their teenagers here in December, not knowing what our community is really like. After this week’s visit, there is no more fear, and we are all looking forward to their visit next month.
Please spread the word to our teens! We invite the community to join us for a plethora of programs with our teenage friends from Eshkol between the days of December 19-28.