A friend of mine from shul and I like to take opportunities to visit other congregations in the area. So, we started the practice of trying to find time for an "away mission" once a month.
While we've been solo of late, exploring different quadrants of the sector for new and exciting forms of Jewish life we're still at it.
This last Shabbat I was in Glens Falls New York at Congregation Shaaray Tefila. Shaaray is a little congregation tucked in next to the Adirondack park and affiliated with the Conservative movement. As such they daven from Levy Shalem and are fully egalitarian and I found a welcome and familiar environment this past Saturday. Their Rabbi Gerry Ginsburg was there with his lovely wife and he led a nice close of Pesach service.
Glens Falls is practically home for me. I lived in the greater southern ADK's for years and the high Peaks for a bit even and the mountains have a way of shaping things there. While I'd never been to Sharray, it was good to be in a mountain shul again.
Still, away missions aren't about just catching up on where you've been but reaching out and building bridges between communities. With the actions of murderous terrorism on our greater Jewish community at the Chabad shul in Poway, California I can't help but think more away missions need to happen. We need to be strengthening our bonds in space as much as time. We may all share shabbos together on the calendar, but how often do we visit and share it in person?
Traveling this summer? Drop shuls, synagogues and temples where you're going an email or call and see if they are doing services and if you might come by. Results may vary, but by and large it's been a positive experience for everyone involved when I travel. Even if it's the across town lot, it's nice to drop in an say hi, and be that reminder of Jewish life over the horizon. Even if it's a different denomination, break bread, daven together, catch-up on what's happening in your community, learn what's doing elsewhere. Come home and let the folks in your community know about it too!
Zeh b'zeh....we're all in this together.