When I was a kid, I didn’t want to go to temple. Sundays were one of the few days when I didn’t have to go to school or swim practice, so the last thing I wanted to do was schlep halfway across Long Island to go learn Hebrew. Once I got there, I had a good time but getting me in the car had to be a bit of a nightmare for my parents.
As the years went on, I went through confirmation, joined the youth group and went off to a JCC camp. The more I got involved with the other kids, the more I looked forward to going to events. I took trips to Canada for youth group and spent my summers building amazing friendships and memories.
When I went off to college, I lost touch with Judaism for a while. When I graduated and moved to Chicago, I didn’t feel a pressing need to do much more than attend High Holy Days with my parents in Oak Park. It wasn’t until we had kids that I felt compelled to become part of a congregation again and that’s when the magic happened.
When we joined our first congregation, the girls were 2 and 4. At first, I’d just drop Rebecca off for school and go work out but, after a while, I started making friends and spending most of my Sunday mornings at the temple hanging out. I made friends with people and, even more importantly, connected back to things from youth group, camp and generally from growing up Jewish that it turned out were fond memories. >There are a few things I’d hope you take away from this story. First, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on your own personal connection to Judaism and our temple and to think about what you can do to be even more connected. Second, please appreciate that our temple is a place for us to worship but also for us to educate our youth and to help them become the future of our faith. The last one is a biggie.
I think we all know at least one Jewish family or at least one parent who have, for whatever reason, chosen not to be affiliated with a temple. With High Holy Days right around the corner…yes they are…it’s a great time to invite them to join. We’ve said many times that we are all part of the membership committee but it doesn’t have to be a tough job. Bring your friends by for a fun event or set them up to speak to folks from our membership committee and clergy. If they like beer, they are welcome to swing by my house for something I’ve brewed up and I’ll talk their ear off about joining…you can come too. Helping people through the door might be the first step in helping them to truly connect with happy memories. Isn’t that a mitzvah?
Matt Ellin, President