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You had me at ‘Shalom’

Shalomby Darcy Grabenstein

An article on is titled “There’s a Difference Between Saying You’re Welcoming and Being Welcoming.” In that article, author Nina Badzin says that, in response to another article she’d written, “Several readers–Jews and non-Jews alike–commented that they found the Jewish community cliquey and unwelcoming.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth at Har Zion. Its welcoming nature is what attracted me to the congregation in the first place. Having been a member of a large synagogue (900 families at one point), I love the closeness and sense of community/family that Har Zion offers. I like to call it the “Cheers” shul… where everyone knows your name. (And we even have name buttons for everyone in case you forget!)

Unfortunately, not everyone knows about Har Zion and its haimish atmosphere. We’re the best-kept secret in South Jersey. We’re working hard to change that.

One thing that won’t change, however, is the way we embrace newcomers (literally) at Har Zion. While we do a great job of greeting visitors and new members with open arms, the article does have some great examples of what it means to be truly welcoming:

  • Actions speak louder than words. “Don’t merely say, ‘We’d love to have you over.’ Put the event on your calendar.”
  • The Pirkei Avot(Ethics of Our Fathers) reminds us to, in so many words, “greet everyone with a cheerful face.”
  • Don’t just say hello to new people; introduce them and their families to others.

Micah and I aren’t really newcomers any more (after joining various committees/groups. But that’s OK. Now we’re the ones ready to roll out the proverbial welcome mat, sharing a sincere smile, warm hug and heartfelt “Shalom!”


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