Why Belong to a Synagogue?

At a recent Friday night Service, we watched with joy as a little baby got a Hebrew name and as the rabbi blessed a couple about to be married.  It reminded me of a column I wrote almost ten years ago for the D’Var.  I thought I would share part of it again.   

Why do you belong to a synagogue?

Because, if you don’t belong to a synagogue, someday your child or grandchild may ask you if they are Jewish or not, and it will break your heart.

You belong to a synagogue because someday –

 You’ll feel a Presence that lightens your heart.         

             You’ll hear a rabbi teach a bit of Torah that adds richness to your life.

             You’ll stand beneath the chuppah and, in halting Hebrew, pledge your love and your loyalty to  another.

             At a magic moment during the High Holy Days, the choir will strum the chords of your soul.

             You’ll see your child or grandchild point to ancient words on old parchment and chant them to an ancient tune.

             You’ll find yourself crying at Friday night Services, as the little daughter of someone you don’t even know gets a Hebrew name and another stranger converts to Judaism, pledging to raise her children as Jews.

             You’ll hear national leaders speak out on your behalf for fairness, for the environment, for religious liberty, for Israel, because you are part of the million members of a movement whose commitment to social justice can not be ignored.

             You’ll feel the warm hand of a rabbi, a cantor or a congregant reach across a hospital bed and assure you that everything will be all right.

             You’ll hear a still, small Voice and you’ll realize that its message encourages you to continue as part of your community.

             You’ll be thanked sincerely for a bologna sandwich and a couple of chocolate chip cookies by a poor man struggling with his life.

             You’ll hear the cantor sing an old song that puts your own life into new perspective.

             You’ll stand at a graveside and hear a rabbi explain the meaning of your loved one’s life to your friends and family.

             You’ll sing a shehechianu at your best friend’s wedding.

             Your son will read a speech at his Confirmation, relating his commitment to Judaism to the deaths of your Great-Uncles in the Holocaust.

             You’ll struggle over the chanting of a Torah portion as you become an adult Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

             You’ll know that, whether or not there is a God, your life makes more sense if it is linked to a Meaningful Design.

             You’ll show your youngest granddaughter the pictures on the Temple wall of your grandparents when they were her age.

             You’ll take pride that what others started, you are helping to prosper.

Dan Swartzman has been teaching in our Adult Education program for many years.  Dan is a professor at UIC, where he teaches ethics, law and nonprofit management.  He and his family have been members of Temple Sholom for 23 years