Why Your Congregation Should Be Your Second Home

Many of us talk about keeping a Jewish home; whether that involves as little as lighting Shabbat candles every Friday, attending Minyan multiple times a week, or just living by Jewish values, it’s at home where we create the starting point of our Jewish life. In mine, for example, Shabbat candles are not an every week thing, but my children know that we are Jewish, that we live by Jewish values, go to as many holidays as we can, and (that Religious school is a non-negotiable (they can thank my mother for that one, it was a steadfast rule in my home growing up, and one learns never to question a Jewish mother.

However, there is a second option to where our Judaism starts, a second home. After growing up in the same congregation where my grandparents played an integral role, where my parents grew up, and where I attended Youth Group and was bat mitzvah’d, finding a new congregation felt like a far-fetched dream. My mother was very involved in our congregation, either as a board member, youth professional, and a myriad of other ways; I would spend so much time there that it was the only other place in my life that I could call home. When my then-boyfriend told me that he would like to convert to Judaism, I told him that it was his responsibility to find a rabbi and congregation to complete his conversion with. Not because I didn’t want to help him, but because I know how important it is for your connection with your own Judaism to work with a Rabbi and congregation that you feel at home with. In his case, he connected with one of the Rabbis at Temple Sinai of Roslyn and began his conversion process. The very first time that I went with him to one of the meetings with Rabbi David was the first time in 10 years that I had felt comfortable at a congregation; I had gone to others throughout college whether through Hillel or family functions, but this one was different. He completed his conversion, and on September 18, 2011, we were married by Rabbi David. After that, our Jewish practice was put on hold for some reason or another, but when our son was ready for Nursery school, I knew that the best place for us to go to would be to return to Sinai. I slowly became more involved with the congregation, and seven years later, I now work here.

My own Jewish journey for the past few years has been incredibly transformative; finding my place as a Jewish woman, a Jewish mother, a Jewish educator, a Jewish leader. I have gone on to discover and challenge preconceived notions of what my own beliefs were regarding the way that one “should” practice; what defines us as members of the Jewish community. All of this has made me realized how important that second home is as part of our Jewish journey. Just like our first home, our congregations are the starting point not only for our Jewish practice, but to our commitment to our values and connections with others. I have been so beyond blessed to have forged some life changing friendships since our very first day as a family at Temple Sinai of Roslyn; from my husband’s conversion, to my son’s very first day of school, to the birth of our second daughter; we really have found a second home where our Judaism can thrive. It is my goal as a mother to instill this same love of Judaism and sense of belonging in my children, like my own mother did for me; the ideal of a space that fosters love, education, and safety, all through Jewish values.

And while we have been incredibly lucky to be a part of such an incredible congregation, Jews everywhere still struggle to find a place to call their home, but most importantly, to feel safe. Our ever-evolving society continues to struggle to create inclusive spaces that allow for people from all walks of life to find a congregation they feel welcomed in. I have heard many people make comments like “well this wasn’t an issue when I was growing up” or “people just want to create more issues than there needs to be”. As a society, we fail to recognize the many needs of people that are desperately looking for that second home but can’t find it because of things such as physical accessibility, lack of representation, or even because their gender identity isn’t being recognized. Now more than ever, we should strive to create stronger and more inclusive congregations that foster connections and strengthen Jewish life and promote unity. And while these spaces won’t be the ultimate solution to the growing waves of antisemitism in our world today, creating strong congregations and standing together as Jewish communities.


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