It had been a while, probably too long, since I had been in Shul.
I had the pleasure of camp Shabbats this summer. However, while in Shul when I responded to the call of one of our community members searching for a Minyan (the 10 people needed to say Kaddish the mourner’s prayer, for a loved one), I was reminded of the power of a Synagogue experience.
The familiarity, comfort and connection I felt was both familiar and animating. It reminded me that in a time of overwhelming individualism, the synagogue remains one of the last bastions of convergence; a place where other people rely on us and we on them; where our participation matters; where we can’t predict the emotions we’ll feel and we can enjoy the power of personal connections.
It’s a place where we surrender a little piece of our autonomy in exchange for the opportunity to be part of something bigger.
It is within the moments of a service, the pages of our prayer books and the Kiddush after, that the history and memory of the Jewish people, stretching back generations, comes alive.
Synagogues argue for aspiration over contentedness. They urge us to be a little better, to reconnect with our values. The tabernacle, the original synagogue, was meant to be a temporary sanctuary, only used until a permanent structure could be erected in Jerusalem. It was to serve as a reminder that our destination had not yet been reached, our goal not yet achieved.
That is the very purpose of the contemporary Synagogue. Membership makes demands of us and creates expectations. They push us to be aspirational and think about the world as larger than any one person. In the course of Jewish history, there may have been individuals who survived in isolation. But those who thrived did so under the shelter of Jewish communities and within the embrace of Jewish institutions.
Greater Richmond is blessed with amazing Synagogues that inspire and connect. As we approach the High Holiday season there is no better way to experience the richness of these days than among a congregation of your friends and neighbors.
To help you find a place to worship, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has compiled a directory of area synagogues.
For details, visit: www.jewishrichmond.org/HighHolidays. We encourage you to select a Synagogue, visit their website or call for information. They are all ready and excited to welcome you as you are. It is one of the many things that make our community so special. Come join us and experience it for yourself.
Make the year 5784 a time for Jewish renewal for you and your family, and a time to find personal meaning and connection with your community!