We are all sadly aware of the divisiveness and sometimes acrimony among the segments of our Jewish community. Our challenge is to identify our roles in promoting ahavat Yisrael and act upon these roles. We can start in a small way within our shul communities by simply greeting co-congregants on Shabbos, in synagogue and outside, with a “Shabbat Shalom” or “Gut Shabbos.” Greeting another indicates recognition and respect for another person, all week long—how much more so on a Shabbos? A friendly Shabbat greeting reinforces our bond and connection to a fellow Jew, and underscores how much we share in common. We need that now more than ever.
I know of a young woman who was exploring Orthodox Judaism and began to attend an Orthodox synagogue in our community. She attended for over four months and in that time no one greeted her or conversed with her. She questioned the feeling of community these congregants had. Does anyone feel a sense of belonging here? Needless to say she was disappointed and decided this was not the environment for her. What a missed opportunity that could have been realized by simple friendliness and each of the congregation being an ambassador for Yiddishkeit and ahavat Yisrael.
If a survey was done of your shul, what would you find? Do you feel a connection to the other congregants? How many people greet you with a friendly “Gut Shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom”?
When walking on the streets on Shabbat are you greeted by others or do you greet others, fostering a feeling of community and connectedness? Are our children encouraged to extend Shabbat greetings, particularly to others who are clearly observing Shabbos? This will help them feel part of a kahal.
In these difficult times we need to emphasize how we are alike and what we share, not our differences and distance from each other. Our connections make us stronger, and our observances are enriched knowing others share the same values. It is good to be part of the same chevra. A simple “Gut Shabbos”/”Shabbat Shalom” goes a long way.
May this New Year bring us more achdut so the Almighty will look down and smile.
S. Dworken Koss