It’s Friday night around 6:30. My husband, Frank and I enter Temple Sinai’s front lobby in anticipation of Shabbat services. We flip through the box of name tags and locate ours. Smiling faces greet us. We exchange “Shabbat Shaloms”—even the staff member who opens the doors welcomes us into the building with the same warm greeting. We’re thinking: This place is REALLY friendly, warm and inviting. It sets the tone that all are welcome. I’ve always thought including everyone in the circle of worship is one of the most important aspects of Judaism.
Frank and I moved to Washington just short of two years ago. Frank had retired from his practice as a hematologist, and I had retired from teaching high school French. We quickly learned that many retirees had chosen to follow their married children to the area so that they could be near family, participate in their lives, and watch their grandchildren grow up. Having been members of a Reconstructionist congregation in Indianapolis for 39 years, we had shared all the life cycle events with our rabbis there. We felt we had grown up together, as they came to the pulpit at Beth-El Zedeck the same year we moved to Indianapolis. We asked ourselves: “Where are we going to find a temple in DC that had that same special feeling as we worship and form bonds of friendship?”
It was by accident that I met a woman while walking near our building in Friendship Heights. We started to chat and soon realized that we had a lot in common. Paying attention to the cues of our conversation, the woman popped the question:” So, have you joined a temple yet?” I shared with her that I had tried to test the waters at a few temples/synagogues around town and had definitely been given the cold shoulder at one sisterhood Mah Jong game. Undeterred, she replied: “You’ve got to join Temple Sinai! They are super friendly, and I think they even have an evening Mah Jong game.”
Meeting the Temple Sinai Sisterhood members at the next Mah Jong evening game sealed the deal. I soon felt very much a part of the group and wanted to become more involved. At services, Frank and I were impressed with the rabbis, cantors and other professional staff. They were very welcoming, and we feel that we learn something new each time they get up on the bimah. We admired the way the rabbis and others in the congregation served the community at large through outreach programs and social action.
We look forward to continuing our volunteering for the SinaiCares program, reaching out to offer words of condolence as we drop off a yahrzeit candle or challah to those who have lost a loved one. And if we happen to be sitting next to you at services, we hope you will introduce yourselves. You might even get an invitation to join us for Shabbat dinner!