There’s been a lot of people asking the question: Why synagogues?
Is there a better way to bring people together to do Jewish? Do we spend too much time on programs, on the building, on this demographic or that demographic?
Last week mentioned Tent Peg Business etc.
There are some really cool models out there of alternatives to synagogues, but I think that’s the wrong question.
It presumes that synagogues need justification, validation.
Rather we should ask: how synagogues?
How do we make synagogue life work? What does it mean, what are the necessary ingredients to good synagogue.
What are they?
For me, the key ingredient is: Participation from all, freely given
From that element flows: mission, vision, transparency, enthusiasm, a sense of purpose. It stops being about the program for its own sake and becomes about programs that help people do synagogue, and do Jewish.
If it’s only about an elite, or a select group that cares; or if the focus is not on how to create opportunities for participation but how to ‘force’ engagement—through gimmicks, through programming, through beautiful buildings, etc.—
In Terumah: The Eternal spoke to Moses saying, Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.
We spend a lot of time with this text asking why: why a tabernacle? Why ask for gifts? Why make them free will, yet indicate what they should be?
The question that’s more interesting to me is how: Participation from all, freely given. No one was forced, nor was it only the leadership. If the Tabernacle, the Mishkan was to be where God would dwell among us (vs 8), then it had to be for us, by us.
So let me ask you: not why do you do synagogue, or do Jewish, but how. Are you happy with the way you do Jewish, or do synagogue? Could you do more? Could you create space to let others do more? Are there people here that you wish came and did more? And how are you going to make that happen? Are we making a sanctuary for God to dwell among us? Because if we’re not, then what are we doing?