I think you have seen the phrase “Your Family, Your Home” on the letterhead of at the top of this very publication. It’s a nice phrase, has a great ring to it but it takes a lot to make it real, to make it more than a superficial slogan. At the heart of the phrase is the value of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, as exemplified by our father, Abraham, when he ran forth from his tent to welcome strangers in the middle of the wilderness: not just greet them with a smile but wash their feet, feed them and make sure they were comfortable. That’s a real welcome.
Aside from the fact that most visitors to Temple Sinai will not be angels in disguise (although you never know!), they all deserve a place here. The pleasant handshake, smile and “Shabbat Shalom” is nice enough but only goes so far. What about when they enter the sanctuary? Does anyone offer to find them a seat? Does anyone talk to them? What about at the Oneg afterwards? Do people invite them to sit at their table or do they save seats for old friends? Do they show an interest in the new person in terms of finding out their story, getting their number, offering to meet up for coffee, bringing them into a chavurah (small group)?
Remember, the vision of being, “Your Family, Your Home”, is based on the assumption that many new visitors come from out of town, are looking for community connections, intellectual, spiritual and social stimulation. They need somewhere to go in a very deep way and it is our duty to provide it for them.
I am writing this because I do not want us to become complacent. If we relax and just assume we are warm and welcoming without doing the work of being warm and welcoming then what is the point? Look out, in the near future, for “ambassadors” who will help with this but also consider yourself an ambassador for this congregation. If you know a couple of people here already, you are in a position to offer comfort and connection to someone new. If it’s good enough for Abraham, it’s good enough for us.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen