Welcome home. That's what the Emanuel Congregation sign outside my office window says. It gives information on service times and our phone number, sure, but it also signifies in the most simple, visible way the fact that Emanuel is an open and friendly Jewish space.
I recently watched an Israeli film, The Women's Balcony, about an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem that struggles with rebuilding their congregation after the women's balcony collapses during a Bar Mitzvah. I appreciated the camaraderie in the first scenes of the movie that depicted different congregants participating in or preparing for the Simcha, a familiar facet of synagogue life. The film managed to succinctly convey the special moments that encompass Saturday morning services, the struggles the congregants faced as they worked to rebuild, and the lifecycle events that were depicted in-between. More than anything, the conclusion of the film conveyed the beauty that exists when a close-knit Jewish community comes together in times of joy or sorrow.
My family didn't belong to a congregation when I was growing up. I was fortunate to reap the benefits of Jewish day school education here in Chicago, and extended family members of mine are active at their own synagogues to varying degrees. When I began working as a synagogue administrator almost five years ago it occurred to me that, outside of school, I had never really experienced or understood what it is like to be an active member of a synagogue community.
The very first time I walked into our building (two years ago next week!) I felt a sense of comfort that comes from being raised in the scope of the Jewish community of Chicago. As I became familiar with our welcoming congregants, traditions, aspirations, and values, I realized why I was so comfortable here. Serving Emanuel and promoting the values of our mission feels like home. As we roll into 2018, the office staff and I look forward to continuing to support the multifaceted endeavors of the Emanuel mission. Happy New Year!