At this time of year when most Jews feel a tug in the direction of synagogue I wanted to write about what synagogues are (and are not). As a reminder, I’m a lay person. I don’t make a living of any kind as a Jewish educator, clergy-wannabe, or synagogue posse. I’m not a macher (bigshot) who throws around the weight of my money or influence (I have little of either) to achieve personal or societal goals. I do no good beyond what my words can accomplish on their own.
That having been said, here is a thought that has been rolling around my head lately:
“Imagine a Jewish child who receives the best education day schools can offer, joins Hillel, visits Israel via Birthright. Then what? What institution, other than the synagogue, is likely to satisfy the spiritual search that is abundantly documented in America today?”
– Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, “ReThinking Synagogues”, chapter 7
I think that this is a valid question for all of us as families, and one which has no single answer – it’s not an answer that remains the same family to family or even year to year within the same family.
If we gave ourselves and children every Jewish opportunity (and assume those opportunities were consistent with the “movement” in which we felt comfortable as a family), would our children come back to our synagogue and feel satisfied and at home? If not, why not?
What about the reality that most of us can’t give our families (whether we are a group of 1 or a couple or more than that) EVERY Jewish opportunity. In that very real case, is our synagogue prepared to meet us where we are, to nurture us on our Jewish journey, to recognize our “aha!” moments?
Something for you to chew on, as you sit in contemplation of the year that has passed and the one ahead.