5 Ideas for a Newbie Shul Member
I think a lot of us singles can feel lost in a synagogue and almost embarrassed to be the one we were looking to portray ourselves as from the get-go. When you are alone, its tricky to meet new people and fully put yourself out there.
A lot of times, us shul members, newbies may not realize, but we are all just in the flow of life and it’s not like we are consciously trying to avoid or meet others, its just….were all human and we dont realize what we are doing when we are just handling kids, wife, husband, x, y, z and then see a random new face at the shul – which, of course, could in turn turn off others, sub consciously, and it feels quite horrible to be the new one at shul while everyone is just running circles around you in their own chaos of life.
I think to make a conscious effort to meet others that are new is hard on all parties, so do not feel like it is anything against you as the new individual at the shul.
We, as a social norm, are becoming more and more, less social, sadly. Corona didn’t help.
At this point, bury those negative ideas you have about entering a shul and all those people there and really focus in on 5 key ideas and you will have much more success.
People will want to meet you!
Most people love meeting new people that are new to the community and we all enjoy introducing others to each other – again, it just takes a minute to get yourself in front of someone to start that casual conversation.
1. You are there to become close to Hashem (G-D) and pray, and others appreciate dedication to Hashem, even if socializing is your goal, focus on this and the social life will come naturally. Find the Rabbi and make sure you introduce yourself to him or the Rebbetzin on your first Shabbos at the Shul, this is a part of getting closer to Hashem, which in turn makes you closer to the Jewish Community.
2. Look & seem put together or sharp enough where you look approachable. It is ok if your more modern and dress as so or if you have some random illness like Crohn’s disease and wearing a suit is uncomfortable, just remember to be presentable, so others understand you respect the synagogue and congregation. Don’t over drink or take substances that can alter your perception of reality.
3. Be you, but tone down anything that is too much around non-religious and shul activity as much as possible, so the orthodox community believes you respect the Shabbos: limiting work and job chat unless it is truly comfortable for both parties, limiting conversations to only outside of prayer areas, and being respectful of others’ politics when someone is opposing your ideology. No need for attacks as usually a shul has many members of the same political orientation and it is really an easy way to create quick animosity with others, depending on how intense you and the other can get in a conversation.
4. Focus on Torah and Jewish topics, the shul, family, friends, Jewish geography, industry fun chatter ( non intense or money matters), community events, etc. So conversation is lighter and more friendly on Shabbos due to the spiritual nature of Shabbos.
5. Get involved – it’s the easiest way to get a group or circle of friends in your local community. Invite groups of people over for Shabbos kiddishes, meals, etc. so a group together feels like everyone can chat and discuss without attention ever needing to be focused on just one person. This makes easy socializing fun and it is common practice on Shabbos… people invite couples over and then the buffer, someone that can create conversation. This may be funny, but definitely helpfully. Invite others over that can create good conversation!
Start allowing people to get to know you, and over time, deep and meaningful conversations can create a stronger Jewish Community for you and the community at large. We hope these ideas help as you transition into a more visible role within your Shul & Jewish Community.