Friday, 13 March 2015

On the Making and Meaning of Community

We have an exciting Shabbat ahead. I’m delighted that Joey Weisenberg is joining us from Machon Hadar. Joey’s work is in building community through song. It’s an appropriate week. Our Torah reading opens, ‘and Moses brought together the community of all the citizens of Israel.’ Hebrew grammar is so delicious – vayakel – is a verb, to make a community, a kehillah. How do you make community? Here are three thoughts.


It takes underlying shared sensibilities so when strangers come together they are already beyond the point of being strangers. You take a Sephardi Jew from Morocco who speaks Arabic, and a Ashkenazi Jew from London and .... well, you wave your hands around a bit, and laugh a bit – and that’s because there is something already there. The shared narrative allows for shared existence.


It takes structure. Two strangers can pass on the street and pause for a moment and experience something powerful, but then the strangers pass and the moment is gone. Coincidence – as beautiful as it is – isn’t the same as community. Community is only possible when there a rhythm for interaction; same time, same place ... community building takes time, it creeps up slowly, it can take a generation. The Hebrew word is keva –structure –structure is the scaffold for a community to find its soul.


It takes risk. Two strangers than sit side-by-side on the pew, week after week, nodding a Shabbat Shalom at one another remain nothing more than strangers who share Kiddush. It takes the moment when one person turns to another and opens up to the possibility something other than being strangers in the same space. Perhaps this is where we are, as a New London Synagogue community, at our weakest, a little too English, a little too worried lest we offend by being too forward. We should be bolder. Perhaps this is where the music can come in. Singing in risky. We open up our voices and who knows where it could lead? I look forward to taking the risk with you. Do come and join us for services. It’s a very special opportunity.


Shabbat shalom


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