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4 Reasons to Join a Synagogue this Year

August 22, 2021 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Why I’m renewing my synagogue membership, and why you should too.

With the upswing in Covid cases worldwide, many synagogues are facing another year of Zoom or socially-distanced High Holiday services. I’ve been hearing a question from some friends: with synagogue still so different – and many of the benefits of synagogue membership, like in person events and Hebrew school, still up in the air, is it worth joining again this year?

We made the decision to renew our synagogue membership. True, it’s a lot of money and we have spent far fewer hours at synagogue events over the past year and a half, but the benefits we accrue justify the costs.

Here are four reasons we decided to join – and why you should too.

Finding Connection

Even with current health and safety measures, synagogues give us a place to connect with others. It’s the setting for some of the most intimate and important moments in our lives. The very act of being near other people, united for a common purpose, can give us the feeling of bonding with other people that we all crave.

Joining our synagogue reminds us that we’re part of a wider community and gives us the chance to reach out to and unite with others.

Joining our synagogue reminds us that we’re part of a wider community and gives us the chance to reach out to and unite with others. Some of the most important moments in Jewish prayer, such as reading the Torah publicly and saying the Mourners' Kaddish, are only done when a minyan (a minimum of ten men) is present. In this year of pandemic-related isolation and uncertainty, being with other people in synagogue is more important than ever.

In my own synagogue, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of staying together as a community. Members have looked out for each other, arranging meals and visits and other help to members who have become sick from Covid or who’ve been adversely affected by the pandemic.

Teaching our Kids Resilience

Synagogue memberships and Hebrew school attendance rates are down this year, and that’s a shame because taking our kids there helps to nurture a commitment to Jewish learning that they’ll remember for years to come. What better way to show our kids we care about being Jewish and being part of the Jewish community than making a commitment to do so even when it's difficult?

Our kids are watching. The way we handle the pandemic – the choices we make, the activities we prioritize and those we cast by the wayside – sends a powerful message to our children about what we truly value in life. Let’s use this teaching moment to show our kids that even when it’s hard, we prioritize being an active member of the Jewish community.

Celebrating the Jewish Year

Joining a synagogue helps give shape to our Jewish year. I’ll always remember last year, just a few months into the pandemic, when a friend told me that for the very first time, her family wasn’t getting together for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Since they’d decided not to renew their synagogue membership, there felt there was little point in celebrating the holiday.

Making a commitment to join your synagogue is a powerful way to connect with the rhythms of the Jewish year. Shabbat or daily services shape our Jewish week. Holiday celebrations are a focal point to the Jewish year. Receiving a weekly newsletter or being part of a synagogue-sponsored group can help strengthen our Jewish connection and sense of being part of the wider Jewish community.

Investing in the Jewish Future

People report becoming more introverted and solitary over the past year and a half. I’ve heard people express the feeling that they’ll wait out the worst of the pandemic, and in a year or so when things are better, then they’ll take part in more community activities once again. Yet when it comes to joining a synagogue, that logic is flawed, for if we wait to re-join our synagogues, then in a few years we might find they’ve gone under and are no longer there for us to join.

If we wait to re-join our synagogues, then in a few years we might tragically find they’ve gone under and are no longer there.

That would be a tragedy. Jews have always supported their local synagogues. In the poverty-stricken shtetls of Eastern Europe, in the beleaguered Jewish communities in the Middle East, everywhere Jews have lived, we’ve always built and maintained and attended our synagogues. It’s in our spiritual DNA to come together and find a way to pray and learn and experience our Jewishness together.

Oprah Winfrey once quipped, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” We all recognize that at times of stress in life, we find what people truly value. As we enter another Jewish year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, let’s double down on our commitment to our Jewish communities and our local synagogues. Shana Tovah and best wishes for a happy, healthy and wonderful 5782!

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