experiments, instruments & measurement book

Welcoming Community, Welcoming Shabbat

by Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet, Temple Beth Emeth


image credit: Nutmeg Designs

It’s the difference between sharing a Shabbat Service with a roomful of strangers and a roomful of friends.  Prior to the service, there is much prep for a rabbi to do – is my sermon ready, is my cue sheet intact, have the Cantor and I prepared adequately?  But the more important prep comes when the first congregant walks through the door.  

Since hearing Ron Wolfson speak at our Summer Institute, I have made it my practice to be there when congregants walk through the door on Friday nights, to wish each of them a Shabbat Shalom myself.  Standing with the usher who is already tasked with greeting arriving congregants, I welcome worshipers as they arrive. Greeting each individual, I get a sense for what the past week has held.  Now when I ask for names for the Mi Shebeirach, when we say our prayer for peace, or when we rejoice with Yis’m’chu, I know who is in the congregation that evening; who needs some extra rejoicing or a contemplative prayer for peace.  In addition, during the Hakafah, every single congregant receives a hug, a kiss, or a handshake from me.  Sure it takes some extra time, so we sing some extra songs, but these practices ensure that I am not the unreachable rabbi on the bimah, and the congregation a faraway entity for me, but rather that we are individuals in relationship with one another who have come together to celebrate Shabbat.  


How is your congregation welcoming congregants on Shabbat?

How else can we build relationships from week to week?

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