This is one of a series of articles I wrote for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.
Judaism is a communal religion. We celebrate together, we mourn together, we worship together, we learn together, we play together. The sages taught that you can’t study Torah on your own. We need ten Jewish adults, a minyan, in order to have a full prayer service. While we observe Shabbat, Chanukah, or Pesach at home, it’s a lot more fulfilling to come together on Friday nights at the Sanctuary, at the annual latke fry, or at the community seder.
Community. We are all part of the community of Peninsula Temple Sholom, all part of its congregation. Let’s expand our community by bringing our friends into this kehila kedosha, embracing them within our wonderful, sacred congregation.
Community matters, but the reality is that the vast majority of Jewish families in the Bay Area aren’t affiliated with synagogues – 70%, according to a recent study. Let’s work together to reverse this trend. We can start by bringing new people into our congregation, into our community. Introduce them to PTS. Help them become part of our family.
How? Let’s get tangible. Think about your Jewish friends, your Jewish neighbors, coworkers, those you meet all the time at yoga class, the dog park, the golf course, the book club, school group, professional association. Would they like to meet other Jewish families? Many of those people are simply waiting for an invitation — and would feel better coming for the first time with friends who can introduce them around.
Remember, your friends do not need to be members of PTS to participate in the life of our congregation, to worship with us, to learn with us, to attend our myriad programs.
This isn’t difficult. All you have to do is ask, “Would you like to come to Shabbat dinner with me this Friday evening?” or “Hey, there’s a great book author visiting our Temple next month. Would you like to hear her lecture?”
Shabbat worship. Let me ask you to bring a non-PTS Jewish friend to at least one Shabbat service this year. We have a wide range of Friday evening Shabbat services, from the Tot ‘n’ Torah services for our youngest children, to the Family Services for school-aged kids, to Hava Nashira musical celebrations, and Kabbalat Shabbat. Saturday mornings, we not only have Shabbat services to celebrate B’nai Mitzvah, but also Sephardic and Lay-Led Minyanim. Bring a friend!
Family dinners. During the school year, everyone can enjoy wonderful Family Dinners before Erev Shabbat services. Check the schedule on the website or in the Bulletin. Family Dinners aren’t only for religious school families, and your friends don’t have to be members to join us.
So, nu, eat already! Nothing says “welcome” like breaking bread together, enjoying wine (or grape juice), singing the motzei over challah, sitting, laughing, and then attending a beautiful Shabbat service. Please come to at least one Family Dinner this year – and bring a friend!
Adult education and programming. This year, our Lifelong Learning program features Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Rabbi Naomi Levi, John Rothmann, Marty Brounstein, and many more. Invite your friends to listen and learn from these experts.
Our wonderful clergy and senior staff teach classes ranging from Rabbi Feder’s Torah Today to Rabbi Stern’s sessions on the Jewish Afterlife to Eran Vaisben’s Hebrew Conversation program. Those classes are open to anyone in the community. Sign up and bring a friend!
New this year is a partnership between PTS and the Bureau of Jewish Education. This fall’s lectures are by Frances Dinkelspiel, Rabbi Joshua Plaut, Ilan Vitemberg, and Vivi Toran. We hope you attend at least one of those programs – maybe your friends would like to attend as well.
Community celebrations. The Hanukah Latke Fry. The Second Day Seder. Please join us. Your friends are very, very welcome to take part in all the festivities.
When you bring your friends, please introduce them around to your fellow congregants, to our clergy and staff, to board members and lay leaders. We want your friends to feel welcome — and become our friends too, joining us in our community and our congregation. And who knows? Perhaps your friends will come to another Shabbat service or adult ed. lecture — bringing more friends. The more the merrier!
That is how we build community. Together. Bring a friend!