At JOI we always like to point out that there are as many pathways into Jewish life as there are people to walk those paths. A recent New York Times article tells of Max Miller, an artist mourning the loss of his father by reciting the prayer for mourning — the Kaddish — at synagogues all over the country. Painting each synagogue he visits, as a symbol of his grief, he gradually reconnects with his Jewish roots. The story is instructive in terms of the community’s approach to welcoming strangers: “…in some places, he has felt distinctly unwelcome. An Orthodox rabbi in a Midtown synagogue was afraid that Mr. Miller was a terrorist… Mr. Miller was too stung to paint the shul.” Most of his other experiences proved to be far more positive. Unfortunately, it only takes one such negative reaction to turn away an unaffiliated person just as he or she trying to establish a connection to the community. It’s something we must always keep in mind.
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