How to Say Hello

by Rachel Lefkowitz

In late spring, my husband and I attended a bar mitzvah service in Connecticut at an impressive synagogue: the sanctuary towered over the satellite chapel and the nearby office and school buildings. A uniformed security guard welcomed everyone with a warm smile and friendly words. It was clearly a congregation with the ability to maintain a big campus and to employ good people. 

We entered the building and stood by ourselves in the foyer, watching the congregants talk with each other. After a bit, someone announced that it was time to enter the sanctuary. We looked through the table of service programs by the sanctuary door until we found the one we would need. What a difference from the greeting we’d received from the paid staff at the door! What would someone who wasn’t familiar with Jewish services have done? How would they have felt? 

Later that afternoon, we went to sit by the pool at our hotel. As we looked for chairs on the deck, two men who were in the pool greeted us. “Come in!” they said, smiling. “The water’s warm!” I was wearing jeans and a sweater—clearly I was not going swimming. But that wasn’t the point. With their friendly greeting, the men reminded me of the security officer from the morning. All three understood how awkward you feel when you haven’t found your place yet, and all three had kindly tried to alleviate the feeling. 

It doesn’t take much to greet people—just the ability to say hello and make a comment about the day, or the thoughtfulness to smile and hand someone a prayer book opened to the right page. Yet that small effort can make all the difference. We need greeters and ushers at Bet Ha’am. (Email me if you can help.) But there are other ways to welcome people. Maybe you’ll look for the person in the hall who is not talking to anyone and comment on the weather. Maybe you’ll bring gluten-free treats to share at potlucks. If we can think about what would make us feel that the water’s warm and then do that for someone else, our community will be grateful.

Image via Pixabay

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