Like most religious organizations, Congregation Etz Chaim exists for the benefit of our community. For us this includes LGBTQ Jews, straight Jews, spouses of Jews, folks who are curious about being Jewish, those who like being around Jews, friends of Jews, and those who resist categorization.
We are working to be the place where all of the people above will feel welcomed and appreciated, where the person staffing the front desk will remember that you have a birthday coming up, or that your mother had taken ill, or that you were away for a few weeks and missed, or that this is your first time at our service.
Our welcoming attitude is evident since we have Trump fans sitting next to Hillary fans, and both are also sitting next to Jill Stein fans, Bernie fans, and even those who did not vote at all. We have members who follow the laws of kashrut, and many who do not, those who have a extensive Jewish education and those who are just learning, those from the East coast and those from the heartland, those who are Zionist and those who are not. Through all this, our community is warm, peaceful, and comforting. We are working to show that politics and other differences need not divide us. Instead, we invite our members and friends to see each other as belonging to the same community.
We believe that once you accept someone into your community you care about them; you care about their health, you care if they might need some extra support, you care if they are looking for new friends or a partner, all under the guidance of liberal Jewish practice that informs our behavior and attitude. Our intention is that our members will grow to care more about each other’s welfare and less about their voting history. This attitude seems to be welcomed, as seen by increased attendance at Shabbat services and social events.
There are many standard prayers we include at every Shabbat service, and this is one I emphasize: Let there be love and understanding among us. Let peace and friendship be our shelter from life’s storms. It is not a prayer about ideology or ritual practice, but a sincere yearning that we be able to be a community member worthy of the name.