Ilana and I joined a synagogue that meets our family’s religious and social needs, and we attend Shabbat morning services there most weeks (when the weather is nice).
I also like to attend services when I’m out of town to compare and contrast experiences.
Last Shabbat, I was in L.A. for the Shalom Zachar and Bris of my grandson, Lior David Lott. From a liturgical perspective, my daughter’s modern Orthodox synagogue was identical to my home synagogue, and I was very comfortable with the service flow, tunes, and siddur. COVID-19 regulations were also the same.
Some interesting differences to note:
- Building security was pretty tight. Armed guards at the entrance, with bags opened and checked. No strollers are allowed in the building.
- There were about 100 people in the room, and I was the oldest. I later learned that there are 4 minyanim on Shabbat morning, and I was attending the young professionals’ minyan.
- Without any prompting from the rabbi, the entire congregation jumped to its feet upon hearing “Avinu Shebashamayim”, the opening words to the prayer for the State of Israel.
When I can, I even like to step outside of my comfort zone for new experiences. I like to see how I am treated when I put myself in the position of being the “other.” In LA, I was the old one. In a Reform synagogue in Florida and a Reconstructing synagogue in Philadelphia, I was the Orthodox one. In a Yemenite synagogue in Northern Israel, I was the Ashkenazi one who couldn’t follow the tunes or the customs. In the Breslov Chasidic synagogue in Jerusalem, I was the one without the streimel who couldn’t keep up with the dancing. In the Italian synagogue, also in Jerusalem, I was the one who didn’t speak the language.
How do guests feel when they visit our synagogues? How welcoming are we? The Torah instructs us at least 36 times how to treat the stranger, reminding us often that we were strangers in Egypt.
A famous quote from Hillel when asked about the essence of the Torah, "Whatever is hateful and distasteful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary.” I know how I like to be treated when I’m the guest and, therefore, strive to treat others the same way.
Making sure that all feel welcome in our community is the primary purpose of Federation’s Engagement Department. Please contact KB Goodkin with questions or for details.
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