Eric Imley & Gale Swartz, Co-Presidents
Temple Beth El is a member congregation in the Union for Reform Judaism which consists of nearly 900 congregations across North America. In its 2020 Vison Campaign, there are four core priorities, Strengthening Congregations, Tikkun Olam, Investing in the Future with our Youth and Audacious Hospitality. As we all know, TBE is in the middle of some great changes in our spiritual leadership and Audacious Hospitality will be just one way that we can open ourselves to new people in our midst.
What is the URJ’s Audacious Hospitality? The URJ helps congregations eliminate the barriers that prevent people from finding their place in Jewish life. They support opportunities for learning that strengthen our relationships with one another and strengthen our Community. This work is a continuation of decades of cutting-edge inclusion and outreach and helps us actively embrace interfaith families, Jews of Color, LGBT Jews and Jews with disabilities to help them nurture their Jewish identities. Their motto along with TBE’s is that ‘We welcome all’.
As Reform Jews, we believe that everyone can feel at home in the Jewish community and that Judaism must meet people where they are today to thrive tomorrow. We stand for a Judaism that is inclusive and open. Audacious Hospitality is rooted in the belief that we will be a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community when we fully welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life.
This is not new for us at TBE; we have welcomed and will continue to welcome all who wish to be part of our family. However, what do we do, what do we think we do and what else can we do in order to make this vision a greater reality? The challenge, of course, is to identify how we do that and what are some of the other easy things that we can do to walk this talk?
Here are a few things that we all can do next time there’s a Temple Gathering, some of which you may already do, but a reminder never hurts!
1) Smile and make eye contact, a friendly face can go a long way.
2) Greet everyone who comes within a few feet of you. A simple ‘hello’ or “Shabbat Shalom” will do the trick.
3) Spend the first five minutes after the conclusion of a program or service talking to people you don’t already know.
4) Introduce them to someone else you know, or offer to introduce them to a lay leader or the Rabbi or Cantor. It’s okay if they decline your offer.
5) After you’ve had an initial conversation, give them space by saying ‘nice to talk with you’ or something similar, as you leave.
6) Follow up. Next time you see the person, go over to them and say hello. Being remembered and seen goes a long way to building a culture of connection and belonging.
This way, together, TBE will be the warm and welcoming place that we all know and love.