This article by Rabbi Paul Kipnes first appeared on Reform Judaism website. It went viral via email between our congregation members.
I invited a former synagogue member – a wonderful and very pleasant person – to rejoin the synagogue after a few years away. She said she had thought about it and wondered, “How would being a member make my life better or different?”
I thought about her question a lot, and even as a congregational rabbi, I admit that I struggled. Eventually, my answer was along these lines: It depends on what you mean by “better.”
If you mean physically healthier, it won’t. Join a gym.
If you mean more physically beautiful, it won’t. Go to Nordstrom’s or a make-up artist.
If you mean richer, it won’t. Get a higher-paying job.
If you mean more mentally stable, it won’t. Go to a therapist.
If you mean more knowledgeable, it won’t. Take a class at your local community college.
The list goes on: If you mean ____, then go ____.
But here’s what joining a synagogue will do.
Being part of a synagogue allows you to be part of a larger community – of your people.
Being part of a synagogue means promulgating values that you and your tradition hold dear.
Being part of a community is like ensuring that your room is still there even after you go away to college. You can always come home. And even if you don’t show up, we are still here.
Being part of a community teaches future generations that being a Jew matters, even if you aren’t a power user of the synagogue at the moment.
Being part of a community means that there will always be High Holidays services for you and the community. Continue reading