As many of you know, Michelle and I (and our families) had the honor of celebrating our oldest, Shayna Naomi becoming a Bat Mitzvah in early September. I wanted to take this opportunity to share what one of our non-Jewish friends said to us after the ceremony on Shabbat morning.
This was the first time that she and her husband had been to a synagogue. They were in awe of the atmosphere in the sanctuary; the kibitzing throughout the service, the greetings that people had for each other, the overall welcoming feeling throughout the room. Their comment was that our congregation gave them a feeling of family. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. Congregants were helpful to the guests that couldn’t follow along with the service. While this may not seem like a big deal to us who experience this atmosphere regularly, it is important to remember that not everyone has this same experience at their church, mosque, or synagogue.
Throughout the Torah and the Midrashim we are taught that welcoming strangers into your community is of utmost importance, beginning with Abraham welcoming three strangers into his tent in Genesis. By some counts we are commanded in the Torah 36 separate times to welcome the stranger. This would make it seem to be a fairly important concept that our congregation obviously lives by.