A Place of Belonging

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Rabbi Boris, March/April 2012

It has been said before that the diversity of our community is one of its greatest blessings. Within the walls of this synagogue, there are people with a range of religious beliefs, family backgrounds, life experiences and political views. As a liberal Reconstructionist congregation, this diversity is part of what makes our community work, as we are constantly teaching and learning from each other’s differences. Yet the diversity of our community is also in how we connect with our tradition, in the “doorways” that we enter into to our Jewish world, and how we choose to join ourselves to the continuity of Jewish life. There are many ways to do this. In fact, a core value of Reconstructionism is that Judaism is an “evolving religious civilization” made up of all aspects of a culture; not only prayer and religious ritual, but also arts and music, food, learning and study, and social action. In a civilization, there is a place for everybody.

These experiences of Judaism are not just peripheral aspects of being Jewish, but are essential to living a spiritual life. For some, this spirituality may come from the joy of prayer and song during our music filled Friday night services. For others, spiritual moments can be found in intellectual discourse, on the trail observing the natural world, or while working with others on a volunteer or social action project. There are even some who most connect to religious and spiritual life by being iconoclasts, who hold on to Jewish tradition and to God by “smashing the idols” of religious hypocrisy to search for more meaning in Jewish life. These different ways of connecting may seem like an obvious part of being in a Jewish community, yet recognizing all of them as authentic and meaningful spiritual paths can be a constant reminder that there is a place for each of us in the growing TBI family.

Mordechai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist movement said, “One cannot be a Jew without actively belonging to the Jewish people.” I hope that people walk into TBI with the understanding that while this is a community of faith, it is most importantly a community of belonging. I am endlessly proud of our welcoming and diverse community, yet I also know that we should be constantly striving to make sure that each person can connect with this community in a way that reaches to the core of his or her unique identities and interests. From support groups and play groups, to knitting circles and informal sports teams, we can make sure that everyone finds a place here that fits. We are excited to be adding some new programs and more opportunities for connecting informally with other people in our congregation the next few months: Shabbat potlucks, family programs such as Havdalah & a Movie nights, and activities utilizing the blessings of our wonderful city and natural areas including ongoing Holy Hikes and Shabbat in the Park during the summer. Each of us can feel that we belong here, not just as members or participants in services or programs, but as builders of the community, not just as observers, but as a vital part of the story of this community, and of the Jewish people.

As Harold Kushner puts it well, echoing the words of Kaplan: “Judaism is less about believing and more about belonging. It is less about what we owe God and more about what we owe each other.” Let’s continue to make TBI a community where we can all find our place, where we can all belong.