I was nervous about asking my rabbi to marry us. Not because my wife is not Jewish– that wasn’t the issue. I was nervous because I haven’t paid dues to the synagogue in over a year, and have been ambiguous about my membership. I hadn’t been to any synagogue events in over a year, and wasn’t participating in other ways either. If I essentially didn’t belong to the synagogue, could I still consider him my rabbi?
So when I picked up the phone and tentatively said “hi,” hoping he would remember me before I made my semi-audacious request, I felt somewhat relieved when his friendly voice answered my request with “sure.”
So was everything cool now? It’s a big congregation and he must have lots of other paying congregants to attend to. Was it really OK to take up his time away from paying members for my self-serving purposes? I hesitantly mentioned to the rabbi that I was not exactly current on my dues, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to pay it in full any time soon.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll have our Membership Director get in touch with you and we’ll figure something out.”
After that I was able to relax. The rabbi just wanted my wife and I to be part of the Jewish community. And thanks to his welcoming nature, we do feel very much a part of it. Even if we aren’t so actively involved… yet.
Last Purim, JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition began a campaign called “There’s No Shame in Asking,” encouraging members of the Coalition to reach out to the less-engaged and unaffiliated in their community to show them that everyone, of all financial means, can afford to be a member of their local Jewish organization and/or synagogue.
It’s this type of approach that can engage more people in my situation and encourage others to join or re-join religious institutions– a welcoming attitude, a lowered barrier, and a feeling of inclusiveness. Additionally, I now enthusiastically recommend others to the synagogue and share the positive vibe from learning that there really is no shame in asking.