If you are reading this issue of The Bulletin, you are a member of our congregation, or at least a supporter thereof. As such, I do not need to make the case to you about the importance of synagogue in the life of the Jew, nor of the pivotal role that the synagogue plays in representing Jews and Judaism to the local community and beyond.
It is also true that you are far more likely to support the other institutions of Jewish life than Jews who are not affiliated. Federation, local and national agencies, Israel-oriented organizations, day schools and campuses of Jewish learning all count among their supporters more synagogue members than any other cohort within the Jewish community.
Your support is both philanthropic and volunteer, and on behalf of the synagogue I am privileged to serve and the community we are privileged to share, I thank you.
It is also the case, however, that as individuals our support for Jewish life is very narrow. I can't fault anyone for it — Jewish organizational life has become so specialized that it would be impossible to spread the wealth (and the love) beyond parochial concerns. At the same time, some organizations have exploited "niche giving" by soliciting multiple times for their cause under different names, ranging from synagogues to day camps to educational campaigns to outreach in other countries.
Yet, I want to make the case for a larger perspective on Jewish living, especially in Northern Virginia. I hope it is obvious to us after ninety-some years that Agudas Achim is secure; we have nothing to prove to anyone. We have sent some of our most active members off to Israel or Florida or the wilderness of Maryland and still sustained a comprehensive and desirable Jewish community. We can afford to live larger.
The opening of the new campus for Gesher Jewish Day School and the expanded facilities of the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Social Service Agency present opportunities for us to imagine more than we are. Without diminishing the fidelity to our own favorite institutions, we can blur the boundaries we have carved among ourselves to allow for more opportunities, more interaction, more cooperation. We may never be seamless as a community — there are still plenty of differences to be celebrated among our diverse (and sometimes perverse) people — but we can open doors for ourselves and others who have yet to discover the manifold blessings of Jewish life in the Commonwealth.
So I urge you to step out of your comfort zone. Visit another shul. Take a class at the JCC. Volunteer at Gesher. Explore a group at JSSA. Attend a Hadassah meeting. Do a service project with B'nai B'rith. Spend some time with another local Jewish organization that is insulted not to be mentioned in this column.
I am not worried about losing you. After all, if you find a larger Jewish life, you cannot possibly be lost.