One of my kids once informed me that it wouldn’t be necessary to continue religious school any longer because said child had already “learned everything” about being Jewish, and, in the unlikely scenario that there was still something to learn, couldn’t I just “homeschool the Jewish stuff”?
I considered this carefully, avoided arguing about the impossibility of anyone knowing everything, acknowledged the potential merits of such a plan, and then said, “If you stop going to religious school, you will miss out on a very important part of Judaism: being part of the community.”
Although there are solitary aspects of Judaism, being part of the community is an essential aspect of Judaism.
Through community, we learn together; we worship together; we celebrate together; we mourn together; and we support each other. Yes, you technically can be Jewish on your own or just with your family, but you miss out on so much that way. Jews (and humans in general) are meant to be part of a community. Community completes us.
What if there’s something you don’t like about your local synagogue or Jewish community? Make it better. Think of one small way you can improve it–something you would enjoy. Perhaps it’s simply attending services regularly and being a friendly face. Perhaps it’s volunteering. Whatever it is, give it your all, and know that no one else can contribute to your community in the unique way that you can.
It’s tempting, and frankly probably easier in some ways, to go it alone. Despite the possible challenges, shortcomings, and frustrations with any community, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Your Jewish community needs you—to show up, to be a mensch, and to make things happen. And, you need your community—to support you, to fulfill you, and to complete you.
Something to think about:
How can you connect to your Jewish community in a way that is inspiring and fulfilling to you, and, at the same time, helps your community thrive? And maybe you’re already doing that–in which case, you have less to think about.