May 2007: Welcome Home…

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As you probably know, a contingent from our congregation recently traveled to Israel with Rabbi Scolnic. From each and every member of the group with whom I have spoken, I have heard nothing but wonderful things.  It is clear that the trip was a unique and incredible experience. One of our travelers recounted that the tour guide’s first words were “Welcome Home” – a phrase that set the tone of the trip.  Another Temple Beth Sholom group is slated to travel to Israel with Rabbi Scolnic in July, and that trip, too, promises to be something special.I have written in this column before about the importance of building community, and about how Temple Beth Sholom creates a community for its members.  These Israel trips contribute to the concept of community in a couple of wonderful ways.

First, by bringing together a group of people for a trip of this nature – many of whom do not know each other well beforehand – the experience serves as a bonding tool.  As anyone who has traveled with a group on a bus, or lived in a dormitory or in a camp bunk, well knows, interpersonal contact on that level can be intense.  It would be nearly impossible to participate in this type of trip without forming strong bonds.  I have observed members of the Israel trip group at shul since their return.  They interact with one another in a different and very special way and it is clear that they feel closer to one another than before.  In a sense, this group of travelers has returned from Israel as a small “community” within our larger Temple community.  

Second, many of us “followed” the TBS group thanks to updates on our new and improved Temple web site, www.tbshamden.com.  Through the magic of technology, George Alexander (our web master), Sarah Scolnic and Stacey Wyner brought much of the trip to the rest of us, in “real” time through photos and beautiful descriptions of the sites.  Many of us checked the web site for updates regularly during the trip and recalled with fondness our own memories of trips to Israel or looked forward to making such a trip in the future.  In essence, a trip for a few became a shared experience for the many.

In thinking about this, I realized that we have other smaller communities within Temple Beth Sholom.  These include our Minyanaires, those who attend Friday night services, the Saturday morning service “regulars,” the Men’s Club breakfast crowd, the Sisterhood membership, and those who regularly attend our Adult Education or Family Education programs.  Each of these groups has a unique “personality,” and that personality defines the character of the small “community.”  The combination of these diverse small communities produces Temple Beth Sholom.  Indeed, a close look reveals that our Temple community is multi-faceted and multi-generational.  I think what we are observing bodes well for our future.