JOI Senior Program Officer Eva Stern received an interesting call a few months ago from KAM Isaiah Israel synagogue in Chicago, Illinois.
What for? Well, KAM Isaiah Israel is conveniently located within earshot of now President Elect-Barack Obama’s Hyde Park residence. KAM Isaiah was confronted with the challenge of maintaining a welcoming, inclusive disposition in the face of security barriers, check-points and Secret Service agents littering their ‘welcome mat.’
According to a recent article in Haaretz, congregants expressed feeling overjoyed by the fact that their neighbor, and a person of color, was elected President. The article quotes one congregant, who remarked on the historic congregation’s memory of the struggle for civil rights in this urban area:
“I’ve been channeling my parents lately, because 50 years ago, this was the dream,” said Roberta Siegel, an active KAM-II member whose father was the president of Isaiah Israel in the 1950s.
So, while the congregation didn’t view this extraordinary security issue as a gross inconvenience, they knew that they needed to go out of their way to maintain a welcoming presence for newcomers and members alike.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky of JOI and Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA recently co-wrote a compelling op-ed about balancing inclusion with increased security measures at the High Holidays. But many congregations face security challenges year-round. Not necessarily the unique situation KAM Isaiah Israel finds itself in, but nonetheless many congregations are aware of the need to increase their welcoming presence beyond security barriers and guards that are all necessary to ensure the safety of the congregation. An inviting welcoming sign and a walk through of any security measures in place at your location on your organization’s website can ensure that newcomers feel comfortable, too.
What does your organization do to promote welcoming and balance the presence of security?