Part of a Rabbis job should be to welcome guests

I have been a guest at many shuls around the country, the farther you get from the Tri-state area the friendlier they are, usually. Why should it be like this? Why shouldn’t every shul try and be as friendly as possible? I just don’t understand it. At least the Rabbi who probably knows who is a guest and who isn’t a guest should come up and say hello and ask you if you need a place to eat.

I one time davened at a very small shul in Kew Garden Hills and had heard that it was a nice shul, everyone in the shul knew each other besides me- the shul had a small Kiddush that week and everyone had to stand around while the people brought up the stale pretzel sticks and dried up humus from the basement. I felt awkward, I never feel awkward and I have been stared at my millions of little Chassidic kids and mother rushing their kids away from the crazy man walking around his house in the shtetle without a shirt on. But this was insane, there were maybe 20 people in the entire shul and not one person nodded or said anything. I was thinking of walking up to the Rabbi and saying “you know it would be nice if you made guests feel welcome by going up to them and being warm” I wanted to do it so badly, is that not part of a Rabbis job- maybe that’s why we need women Rabbis- they are much more friendly.

I asked Rabbi Bomzer in Albany this question, he is a dear friend of mine and the Jewish Geography welcoming guests to the shul master. He will stop everything to welcome a guest and he responded that I most certainly should complain to any Rabbi in who’s shul you do not feel welcome. Man that would take forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting a welcoming committee with scantily clad women feeding me grapes on a lush red carpet (it would be nice) but at least some “good shabbosses” or “I don’t believe we’ve met” or maybe even “do you have a place?” God forbid anyone should make someone feel welcome in their shul.

Not on a weekday, but on a shabbos when most of the people in shul are regulars- and everyone can spot a guest, especially if you’re the single person not wearing a talis, or maybe the only one not wearing a white shirt or a hat, or a suit for that matter. I rarely wear a suit on shabbos if its over 70 degrees out and in Monsey they all know I’m a guest- come on people show some love.

22 comments for “Part of a Rabbis job should be to welcome guests

  1. July 30, 2008 at 6:42 AM

    Dude why aren’t you throwing up that masterpiece of a freestyle? The joint effort of da jew and FS?

  2. rebsteve
    July 30, 2008 at 7:02 AM

    I found the same thing in Baltimore. I went to one of the few modern shuls on two separate occasions, and no one said hello, or are you new here. Out here in Michigan, you can’t sit in shul for more than 10 minutes without someone coming up to you and asking if you’re visiting or if you moved to the neighborhood.
    I think it’s a big vs. small community thing. In smaller communities, you’re always looking for new people, whereas in big communities, I think people feel that they have their friends and don’t need any others, so why bother talking to new people.

  3. tnspr569
    July 30, 2008 at 8:37 AM

    70 degrees?! Come on, Hesh! That’s cool weather for some of us!

  4. utubefan
    July 30, 2008 at 8:42 AM

    We were in a Shul in Wesley for over three years and no one ever said “Good Shabbos.” The Rabbi did invite us over for a Shabbos meal, but we never really had a conversation with him after that. It was surreal. Thank G-d we had both grown up in normal communities so we knew that not all religious Jews are that obnoxious. There isn’t any good excuse for it.

  5. July 30, 2008 at 9:33 AM

    See, and my experience with women rabbis is that they’re cold and unattentive (that’s coming from experience with two women rabbis at Reform shuls in my past).

    Rebbetzins seem to take on the hospitality job pretty well. The first time I went to the Orthodox shul in my ‘hood, I was greeted by dozens of people trying to fix me up with seders for Pesach and dinner for Shabbos. It’s like that every time I go now, and it’s marvelous. And I’m in big-city Chicago.

  6. July 30, 2008 at 10:10 AM

    All this talk of lack of hospitality is going to result in winding up back in shul so there’s no reason for anyone to ever say that. One thing, though, if a lack of invite for lunch — maybe people don’t have extra to eat (weren’t you out of work, just the other day?) — or maybe they are concerned that their kashrus won’t jive with yours and don’t want to put you in a potentially awkward situation.

    The other day, sitting around in my head, I invented a minhag (for shabbos and holiday meals). It’s letting the guest make motzi. It made me laugh.
    “I’d like to invoke Heshy’s law, if you don’t mind.”
    “Oh, thank you; I’m starving!”

    As far as a picnic goes, there are a few approaches:
    1. pot luck, byoh
    2. find a restaurant and swap them lots free publicity in exchange for catering the picnic. If you do this in the city, maybe you could actually find someone, as people from Brooklyn and Monsey might actually show up
    3. (I don’t know)

    re: Dates and location
    How about Sunday of shabbos nachamu weekend (Aug. 17)?
    Hangover Helper at Harriman? or Central Park?
    It’s all good. It doesn’t have to be at a meal-type time, either; if you make it from, say, 2-5, people don’t have to worry about food, if money’s tight, or other people’s kashrus (if your kashrus is questionable or lacking, you can always bring paper goods to share).

    Maybe a band or two would be kind enough to play for gas money (I’d kick in toward that — heimish, you have lipa schmeltzer’s number, right? kidding. I’m sure something can be worked out; Shua, how quickly can you put a band together? kidding again).

    That’s all the brain I have, for now. Oh! I figured out your new job — you either drive a mitzvah tank for chabad, or you drive a nanach van for the men in white. I’m glad I amuse myself.

  7. July 30, 2008 at 10:29 AM

    On a more serious note, Chicago and Baltimore both seem to have a lot of heart, based on the people I’ve met from there.

    And I don’t think it should necessarily be the rabbi’s job — let that be the head of the men’s club and the head of the sisterhood (I don’t think I have ever been to shuls that have these, but they sound okay*). If it’s a shtieble, what about the gabbai? Which doesn’t address the women’s section. But rebbetzins are already superheroes, so what’s one more thing, right? ((rebbetzins))

    That said, when there’s a divorce, if the mother no longer goes to the father’s shul, if there is a female child, someone from the women’s section (maybe an older girl, maybe the rebbetzin, maybe whoever’s around, but someone should look out) should make an effort to introduce the girl to the other girls, if it’s a new community for her, or to be an available female mentor, yiddishkeit-wise, when the girl is around. It’s stuff like this is going to land me back in shul on a regular basis. Dagnabbit. (almost laughing, but not at the though of waking up early on a weekend)

    *actually, a few years ago I posted a personal ad on craigslist, and I got a super-nasty reply from someone who used his real email address. I googled it and learned he was the president of his shul’s men’s club, as well as where he works and his phone #. Part of me wanted to forward his reply to the shul’s rabbi, to let them know what a swell guy he is, but I didn’t. I figured they either already know or his (lack of) kindness will be returned to him, eventually, without my help. I still think of it, now and then. I can’t believe someone would send something not nice from the same eddress they use for shul and work.

  8. Wesley
    July 30, 2008 at 10:53 AM

    uTube – did the shul have the initials AY?

  9. Left Brooklyn and never looked back
    July 30, 2008 at 11:00 AM

    Chavi, female rabbis are no different their male counterparts. Some are friendly and some are not.

    All Rabbinical programs should screen the candidates applying for pulpit positions and reject those with obvious personality defects or those with flat affects.

    Hesh, FYI Moshe Bomzer had a wondereful mentor, his father, who was the rabbi for many years at the YI of Ocean Parkway.

  10. July 30, 2008 at 11:11 AM

    wesley, chanief, utube, et al, is there such a thing as a friendly MOish shul in WH? Or a friendly O’shtieble (with leprechauns and everything), perhaps? I’d love for there to be a shul where my family out there can go and hang with some nice folks. If you’re an old-timer, I mean a vibe like 1977 in Blueberry Hill.

  11. utubefan
    July 30, 2008 at 11:50 AM

    Wesley, it’s the other one of course. And fair is fair, they actually have a good Rabbi now. But it can’t save them from themselves, I don’t think.
    s(b) nothing is normal in Wesley. Even those who say they are “down to earth” are not. No one is hooked up with anything real like Bnei Akiva and such. It would do them all some spiritual good. And there isn’t even a heimishe Cheers-like shteibel. That’s why we left.
    Aaah. 1977. That was a good year. Actually, more 1987, but…

  12. heimish in bp
    July 30, 2008 at 11:54 AM

    I like the rumbling about the picnic, sounds good, but I wont be available that sunday. Sorry, no Lipa. But that sunday, is visiting day in the “country” and I will be sitting in traffic on the 42, like the rest of the idiots.

    This summer, my friends and I decided to say hello, hi, how are you, to any new face who comes to our place. It is amazing how much friendlier everyone is because of it. You just need someone to break the ice, and most join in. I do agree that it is one of the most horrible midos of the big cities, and one of the reasons i really want to leave this city.

    s(b.), that was very funny, thanks for some humor

    (Hesh, btw, this is a negative post, how come?)

  13. July 30, 2008 at 11:56 AM

    were you really there, then (’77)? maybe you knew my parents when they were actually married to each other!

  14. utubefan
    July 30, 2008 at 12:32 PM

    s(b), you are funny. No I wasn’t there in 77 or 87, thank G-d. That’s why those were good years. I grew up in a normal frum environment. I know what you mean about Blueberry. I was just in there and thinking: What has become of MO? Oh, woe onto us and so forth. I do that a lot lately. I should really get out of town, but my crazy kids are happy in school so…what am I gonna do? Plus, then I wouldn’t have Lipa and occasionally my kids get their Lipa-sighting fix so they have something to talk about for a couple of days. Love that guy.

  15. July 30, 2008 at 2:52 PM

    Totally Unrelated
    Maybe someone can tell these folks they’ll get a better turnout if there’s no live music during one hour and get that word out to whoever (I don’t know who’s a macher in that area):

    Flatbush Community Health Fair at BC’s Student Center

    The Brooklyn College Student Center has partnered with the New York Presbyterian Community Health Plan to hold a Family Wellness Day for the Flatbush community on Sunday, August 3, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will take place in the Student Center building on Campus Road and East 27 Street.

    Staff from New York Presbyterian and New York Methodist hospitals will offer free glucose, blood pressure, and foot screenings, and health and nutritional tips to the public. Health vendors offering acupuncture, free or low-cost health insurance, and an HIV rapid testing will also be on site. Free refreshments and giveaways are in store for all participants.

    The fair, which will include music and entertainment for the Flatbush families and their children, is the first of its kind for the BC Student Center.

    In addition, New York Methodist Hospital will hold a blood drive, and volunteers are welcome to donate. The hospital recently recognized 175 blood donors, including Brooklyn College, for their invaluable contributions to its blood donor program at a special luncheon.

    Other organizations participating in the fair include the Church Avenue Merchant Business Association, Dr. Chen’s Acupuncture, the Caribbean Woman’s Health Association, the Presbyterian Blood Donor Program, the Brooklyn College Division of Student Affairs, and Staffing Unlimited.

    Question for regular shul-goers: Is the importance of donating blood emphasized or discussed much in the frumidoxidish communities at all?

  16. Wesley
    July 30, 2008 at 5:35 PM

    There absolutely is a MO shul in WH — and friendly, too. Ahavat Yisrael, 126 E. Willow Tree Road, Fifty families. Agree that Bnei Akiva is sorely needed. Ah, well.

  17. July 30, 2008 at 8:15 PM

    Maybe not the rabbi, But a designated person should come over and greet you.

  18. adina
    July 30, 2008 at 9:00 PM

    rabbis can only do so much. Either the shul president or any number of other people should notice what’s going on and say hello to people who look to be visitors.

  19. Hope Less
    July 30, 2008 at 9:21 PM

    There is no corollary that says that all nice people are Rabbis, just like there is no corollary that says that all Rabbis are nice.

    I know thirty-eight nice Rabbis, and one nasty one.

  20. July 30, 2008 at 9:31 PM

    Wesley, Bnei Akiva, NCSY, JEP, USY, whatever. I grew up in a town without youth group ’cause there weren’t many Jews. A teen in my life is growing up in WH and the only youth group meets outside Shelli’s Too and it’s composed of at-risk youth without a leader. :gevalt:

  21. July 30, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    and, heimish, I don’t think this post was rooted in negativity, I think it was rooted in hunger. There’s angry man and there’s cranky man because he’s hungry. That read like hungry. I guess driving a mitzvah tank is tougher than one would think.

  22. heimish in bp
    July 31, 2008 at 8:48 AM

    lol, true, but the further into the post the more bitter it sounded, whatever, i guess Hesh forgot about the E-mail, or just didnt realize.

    And btw, the BP Bikur Cholim, have massive blood drives throughout the year,in many different hassidic shuls in bp, and the K.

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