Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jews in Name Only?

I used to be somewhat dismayed by the perception I had of my congregation. It seemed as though the majority were secular Jews, Jews whose only ties were secular in nature. As I became more open and aware of those in my congregation, I thought less why they remained Jews and more of how I can learn by their example. I used to wonder why so many didn't make the effort to learn the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers in Hebrew and were content just to be there. And there was my clue. They werethere.

Perhaps the majority don't keep Shomeir Shabbat. Perhaps the majority don't keep kosher. They do keep our community going. They are there when someone needs a ride to services, to the hospital, or someone is sick and needs a visit.

They are there when someone dies in our very small Jewish community. They come and say the Mourner's Kaddish for the prescribed period when their parent or child has died.

They are there when we joyfully celebrate the groundbreaking of our new shul. They are there to greet the visiting rabbis. They are there when we dance with our Torahs on Simchat Torah.

They struggle and have struggled so their children can have bar/bat mitzvahs. These parents have to find a rabbi who is willing to help their children learn the trope via phone, email, webcam, etc. And thank HaShem there are rabbis who are willing to take the time to help these children and their families.

I used think why do they remain Jews. Now I think of the great strength it has taken each of them to remain Jewish when we live in the Bible Belt. It would have been so much easier to just assimilate.

The very essence of Jewish life is community. Our small community is made up of both observant and non-observant. We remain a strong community because we look out for one another. That is our greatest strength.

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