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Spiteful Synagogue Syndrome Stories

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MK Bezalel Smotrich suggested not long ago that his political rival, Naftali Bennet, is no longer welcome in synagogue. Sadly, this highlights the fact that there are too many Jews who think it is their right to say who does or does not belong in the synagogue. This mindset has a powerfully adverse impact on Jewish affiliation and Jewish life. All too often, I met people who had a negative experience in a synagogue and decided to stop going. I cannot blame them. When they tell me this, I share my personal synagogue stories and what I have learned from them. Sometimes I laugh when looking back; sometimes, the pain is still real. These stories remind me of what we need to do to make our synagogues more welcoming.

One Shabbat, I came early to services in a synagogue with a little over one hundred seats. I sat down in one of the many empty seats. Two more men came into the sanctuary; there was a total of three people in this synagogue meant for a hundred people. One of the men came over to me and said: “Sorry, but you are sitting in someone else’s seat.” I got up and stood, looking at the synagogue at 3% capacity, not knowing which of the many empty seats I could take without being removed from the empty chair. This man was not the rabbi or president, nor was he kicking me out of a seat that was his. Yet this was not nearly as bad as the time I was in Cleveland, in a synagogue I was........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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