Recently, I posted a message about how Jews tend to gather at synagogue when the news stirs up strong emotion. I talked about the value of a “home synagogue” at such times.
In the discussion that followed, Anne Ireland, a former student, added her own experience with a congregation that she could not feel at home in, no matter how hard she tried. She finally left that congregation to seek out a place that would be better for her and her husband.
Anne posted the steps she went through in first trying to resolve the difficulty, and then in moving on. It was such an excellent list that I asked her for permission to repost it here.
Here is Anne Ireland’s advice for a process when a synagogue just isn’t home:
1. Talk privately to leaders at your shul, to see if problems are resolvable.
2. Be clear about what you need.
3. Do not be ashamed if you have needs the congregation does not have.
4. Before leaving, expand. make sure you are participating in a variety of community alternatives. I am a member of Kol Hadash, and a meditation group, Kol HaLev.
5. Listen and be aware that you might not be the only one with these problems, not only at your shul, but elsewhere.
6. Don’t rush to join, until you see the new shul is really an excellent fit.
7. As a bottom line, how much is your participation welcome? are the core people doing everything, and stretched so thin, but they don’t need any help? fine, be that way.
8. Leave when you’re ready. Go back when you’re ready for a visit if an offering is good for you.
9. Leave ’em laughing when you go. If the shul isn’t responsive, and you have taken the above steps, cancel you membership, and put a stop payment on your shul’s monthly dues. They will notice that, I assure you. Would that it would make them think. If not, you are out of there.
The only caveat I’d add is that before you put a stop payment on dues, check back and see if you made a commitment for a full year. If so, it’s best to terminate at the end of that year – otherwise, you’re breaking a contract.
Anne, thank you for sharing your experience with us! I particularly appreciate the effort you put into trying to communicate with the leadership at the synagogue. I’m sorry that things did not work out, but I appreciate your willingness to talk about how you made your way to a synagogue home that felt comfortable for you.