As I consider my friend’s comments, I can see her point. At services, Hebrew school, and other events it is easy to greet old friends, harder to approach a new face. And so often we are in a rush – there is a child to get to bed, a child to pick up from a soccer game, company coming, a mad rush at work . . . It is hard enough to keep up with our current friends, without adding to their number. For the High Holidays, we expect to see new faces. We know that students, out of town family of our members, and guests will be visiting us, and we tend to make a special effort. It is in the quiet times, the every day, ordinary times, that our lack of outreach is felt.
Why should we be concerned about the warmth of our congregation, and the ease with which new members feel a part of the community? The values of warmth, hospitality and community are deeply instilled in Jewish culture. When we create and sustain community, we are performing mitzvot. In addition to altruistic motives, we have deeply self interested motives in building a strong community; as we sustain our community we are sustaining ourselves.
What, then, can we do to make our community stronger, to extend a warmer welcome to newcomers, and to make all of our members, old and new, feel that they have a home in BAJC? Small things can make a big difference. Each of us can make the effort to approach someone we don’t know at services or other events. And what if we put our heads together and came up with new ideas? What if we started a rolling Shabbat dinner, where each and every family in our congregation had a chance to host and be a guest at a Shabbat dinner? I would love to hear your ideas about how we can strengthen our community. Please give me a call or drop me an email with your thoughts. We are blessed right now with over half a dozen new member families, so this is a particularly good time to work on outreach and inclusiveness.