Jewish Journal

Greeting Newcomers in Shul

by Rabbi Barry Gelman

June 22, 2010 | 1:39 pm

I recently sent an email to my congregation (United Orthodox Synagogues - UOS) on the importance of shuls being welcoming to newcomers. My email was motivated by having spent time in various orthodox shuls without being welcomed or greeted. I received the following email in response to my message. I share it with you in order to highlight the fact that while there are many important aspects of what attracts people to a specific shul (rabbi, classes, philosophy) the simple act of welcoming a newcomer is a major feature as to why people attend, do not attend, leave shuls in favor of another or stop attending shul altogether.

Dear Rabbi
It is very interesting reading your opinion of the way visitors are greeted in shuls.
All of my children have emigrated and all of them had experiences where they went to shul for months and were never greeted so they never went back.
My daughter in New York eventually went to conservative where she was made very welcome.
In fact my daughter in Sydney Australia has been going to orthodox shul almost every shabbat for two years since my husband passed away and recently told me she will not be going back because no-one ever talks to her.
UOS is wonderful the ladies in particular are very friendly and do make strangers feel very welcome.
When my son who is a member at————- came with me to say kaddish the men all spoke to him and made him feel welcome so you can be very proud of your congregation
thank you for that

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