Whose Synagogue is it Anyway?!

Young families or seniors? Men or women? Bachelors or marrieds? Inreach or outreach? Is there a place for children in the synagogue?

A synagogue community is comprised of many different individuals as well as groups. At times the needs of some greatly differ from the needs of others. Whose needs take precedence? As a community in whom should we invest more of our resources? Will one group be pushed out of the synagogue and another group become dominant?

The existence of different groups in one synagogue can create tensions, some that are obvious and others that are less evident. There will be some that will say "There is no room for all of us in the same synagogue. That other group should leave and start its own shul." It IS possible that at certain times this is the best approach.

But it is also possible to create an atmosphere that attempts to include all of the different groups and to bridge the gaps that exist between them. It is the task of the rabbi to figure out how to relate to each group in the way that is most fitting. He must be attentive, available and responsive to every congregant on their own level. He should know how to vary his classes and the synagogue's programming so that all of the populations stay interested and engaged. He must consider the needs and desires of each group and do his best to unify all parts of the congregation.

A synagogue is like a family. Just as a family is comprised of people of different ages and opinions and has to be inclusive and give everyone their place in order to be functional, so too a synagogue. The synagogue should be led with an awareness that it must offer a range of options that will appeal to the range of populations that enter its doors.

In the latter part of the book of Genesis Joseph and his brothers go through a process whereby each one of them learns how to find their place in a family that will eventually become the Jewish People. Joseph and his brothers also struggle with the question of who is inside and who is outside. But the conclusion of the book of Genesis Is that the children of Jacob, despite their differences in outlook and origin, all have a place in the family. This requires hard work. If we speak directly with our fellow man instead of about him, if we can learn not to be afraid of the dreams of others, but rather discover and strengthen within us the shared common goal then despite our significant differences we can march together.

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Making Israel Better

The Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics aims to improve the fabric of Israeli society by intensively training Israeli rabbis in all aspects of communal rabbinics so that they can lead their communities to a more meaningful connection with Judaism and act as a unifying force in Israeli society.

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