“(any name here)……A Synagogue You Can Believe In”

Sinagogue from Brasov, Romania

Image via Wikipedia

I kid you not.  The headline is exactly what the large billboard sign posted on the edge of the synagogue’s property said, proclaiming that I can now believe in a building. 

If I hadn’t been driving, I would have taken a picture.  Was I the only one experiencing the message as spiritually arrogant?  

Obviously, someone went through a lot of trouble to make that sign, and it probably had to pass several committees for approval. Who knows, maybe there was even a zoning issue or two involved. The billboard must have been the result of a well conceived membership campaign.

What happened? When did we lose sight of belief and instead become enamored with the impermanent: social halls, cushy chairs, plush carpeting and the oh so many naming opportunities?

A  friend of mine told me that she went to a membership orientation night, and after waiting 40 minutes past the start time, members were taken on a TOUR of the building!  No preliminary niceties or ice breakers, no interactive exercises, no discussion of what members find  meaningful in a synagogue experience.  Yet, amazingly, she joined.

If you’re thinking right about now “what does this have to do with Jewish teens?”  the topic is not as far off as you might think.  Teens get that we talk about connectedness, but aren’t really doing it in our sacred spaces. 

I’m not suggesting that we pray outside, in the cold, without shelter.  And I’m not, G-d forbid,  intimating that we not gather together.  What I’m saying is let’s not forget the reason that we built these things  in the first place: to become a community before G-d. Everything we do, every interaction we have, should stem from that one purpose.

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About Ruth Schapira

As a Jewish educator and consultant, I hope to spur new ideas through this blog that might inspire conversations and change within the Jewish community. I'm interested in making a difference through training, leadership development, and outreach. View all posts by Ruth Schapira

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