At a recent Shabbat service, we had a couple visiting town stop in to visit us. They knew someone who was a member, but had no other affiliation or information about the Temple. And, although some spiritual reason brought them to Shabbat services, they did not appear to be particularly “religious.” After services were over, I invited them to join us for Kiddush and they grabbed some stuffed shells (they were excellent!) and sat down and mingled with the crowd.
That particular day was a typical Shabbat with no special events. The sanctuary was comfortably full and families that came late had to hunt for open benches to sit together. Young children were playing quietly in the back, and there was a steady stream of children up to the Bimah as my children came with the usual Dad issues (reports on who hit who) and the Rabbi’s grandchildren came with the usual Grandfather issues (looking for lollipops). As usual we closed with the children leading Adon Olam and the HaMotzi. After everyone had their fill at Kiddush, we benched the Birkat Ha-Mazon together and people sat back down for round two of coffee.
When we finished the Birkat and were cleaning up, our guests approached and gave us the best compliment any Temple could ask for. They said they were impressed at how much we were like a family. From services, to Kiddush, to Birkat, they watched as outside observers and came up with one word to describe us: family. Family. As a Temple, it is the highest compliment we can receive and I can’t hear it enough. It is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to define; yet it was the single most common theme that came up during the Board’s early mission statement session. For an outside visitor to come in and feel that connection after one service is a clear measure of our success as a congregation and a compliment to our membership.