Earlier today, I had the following IM exchange with a friend and colleague (who gave me permission to share our conversation):
F&C: I just called a nearby congregation about HHD tickets. It was…the most off-putting experience of my Jewish life.
JanetheWriter: Oy. What'd they say?F&C: Well, I called yesterday and left a message.
JanetheWriter: And today they called you back?F&C: Said I'm newish here, haven't been to services yet, work for the URJ, but am not calling in a URJ capacity. Just looking for a service to attend for the holidays because I live nearby. The woman who returned my call said, “Hi, this is Sylvia from Congregation Oy Vey. I got your message.” I said, “Oh, hi, thanks for calling me back,” and she said, “Is there something I can help you with?”
YES, I LEFT IT ALL IN THE MESSAGE.
And then when I asked about services, she told me she can mail me a packet of info, that it's $180 per person or $360 for a family.
She took my address and that was it. I'm of course not able to pay $360 for Steve and me to attend services, so I won't be going. And what do you want to bet no one from that congregation ever follows up with me?
It was the epitome of unwelcoming, un-encouraging, and alienating.
JanetheWriter: I am so sorry... And how ironic…today's #BlogElul theme is “hear.”You know you both are welcome in Bellville. Vicky, Carol, my dad and I would LOVE to have you!
F&C: Thanks.JanetheWriter: Think about it...seriously.F&C: I don't even want to go that badly, to be honest. But... man, now I'm definitely never going there. Which is too badJanetheWriter: I know...but totally understandable.F&C: Just such a bummer.JanetheWriter: And, unfortunately, not uncommonF&C: It's exactly what we're trying to work against, you know? ME. What *I* help try to work against! And it just happened to me. And it sucked.JanetheWriter: It does suck. It is the worst feeling. It happened to me in LA...it just makes you want to cry. But don't do that, please.
What will it take for congregations to hear--I mean really hear--the young people who come knocking at their doors – and to be as welcoming as Abraham???
Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima,this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.