Why do synagogues matter? Simply put, they providea place to meet three intrinsic human needs: the need to be-long; the need to believe; and the need to become.
It’s been said we Jews are a hopelessly communal
people. We want to belong, to feel noticed and needed. Unfor- tunately, we participate in so many communities,we feel only an attenuated sense of allegiance toany one group. The soccer team, the civic group,professional associations, the boy scouts andbrownies, each of these lays partial claim to ourattention, based on a limited set of mutual inter-ests.We relate to each as a consumer. The
synagogue is different; it’s a community of cove-
nant. Relating to a community as a consumer isdifferent than relating to it as a covenantal part-ner. Where the consumer approach to communityis transactional, the covenantal approach is relational. Where the consumer approach is contingent, the covenantal ap-proach is committed. Where the consumer approach is indi-vidualistic, the covenantal approach is communal.In contrast to the consumer approach, synagoguesare intended to be a covenantal community of caring, a placewhere each person is noticed and valued, his accomplish-ments communally celebrated, her losses collectivelymourned. Reform synagogues, in particular, present a radicallyinclusive approach to community, embracing Jews irrespectiveof color, sex, status as an interfaith family, age, or sexual ori-entation. Such diversity not only strengthens our community; it
models Judaism’s most central and enduring values.
An important caveat: as every volunteer knows, the
laws of physics don’t apply, as we know them –
when we getinvolved in the synagogue, we often get back much more thanwe give.
The synagogue is also a place to explore one’s beliefs.
As Jews, we tend to stress the importance of action over be-
lief, but it’s in a reform synagogue that you would be morelikely to encounter a conversation about one’s relationship
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with God. The spiritual quest is alive and well and openlyembraced.
Today’s challenge to belief centers less on the nature of God, and more on the truth of the Torah’s moral message. Inour multicultural society, we are taught that what’s right for
you may be right for you and wrong for me. Whensubjected to the caveat of relativity, the Ten Com-mandments can be reduced to the ten sugges- tions.
It’s become impolitic to express the belief that
the Torah speaks clearly and universally about
what’s right and wrong. Indeed, I feel the Torahdidn’t get it right every time, e.g. the death pen-
alty for Sabbath desecrators or homosexual rela- tions, but Jewish law provided a corrective whenscience overtook ancient erroneous assumptions.Occasional errors aside, the Torah provides a
framework for justice that is True with a capital ―T‖ and
ought not be marginalized through the lens of multicultural-ism. To assert there is an ultimate right and wrong might notbe politically correct, but it is the irreducible essence of Pro-phetic Judaism, and if we consider that message seriously,
we’ll be doubly motivated to act on our beliefs, to bring jus-
tice and compassion to the world.Last, the synagogue provides not only a place tobelong and act on our beliefs
it also is a place to become.Just as Judaism is not a static set of beliefs and behavior,but rather is constantly evolving, each of us is somewhere
on our ―Jewish Journey.‖ No matter where you are on that
even if you’re at the beginning!
- the synagogueprovides a place to experiment, to learn, to reflect, exploreand discover, to be empowered, and to experience life en-riched with a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose.Belonging. Believing. Becoming; three intrinsic hu-man needs, each of which can be met through involvementin the synagogue. Think about it. The S.S. Sinai sets sail
soon and we’d love to have you aboard!
Rabbi David Cohen
WHY BELONG TO A SYNAGOGUE?
From the President
I have learned from being president of Sinai thateach day I have a lot to learn. "I'velearned that people will forget what youhave said, people will forgetwhat you have done, but people willnever forget how you made them feel."And that speaks to our warm and caring congregation.Sinai is a blessing. We need tocare for it and nurture it. We need toexperience our personal mitzvah mo-ments by volunteering. The power of ONE resonates for each of us. We want to have our precious
time commitments to have purpose. Let’s make that happen
by being an active participant in synagogue life. This lastmonth I helped with the Purim festivities. I am always grati-fied when I see the tireless dedication of volunteers. Jill,
Bobbi, the Brotherhood, Jenni, Annie………the list is endless.
It reminds me that our synagogue is a place where commu-nity is created and strengthened. Our volunteers come in allshapes and sizes. Some are retired and choosing to devote time to the synagogue, others are working and raising chil-dren; yet all manage to find ways to give back to the commu-
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