MJC – MEANINGFUL JEWISH CONNECTIONS
For decades, the Malverne Jewish Center has been a place for the Jewish community in Malverne and surrounding areas to create Meaningful Jewish Connections. While the ways and manner in which Jews connect with each other, with God and with the Jewish people as a whole has changed over the past 60+ years, what hasn’t changed is our very human need to connect; put two Jews in a room and immediately the “Jewish Geography” game begins. Through the magic of Facebook and other social media sites, I’ve “met” people who grew up in the area, along with people who still live here, who didn’t realize that MJC not only still exists, but is alive and thriving.
Facebook friendships certainly can’t replace real-life, in-person interactions, but they do serve to broaden our horizons by helping us connect with people we might not otherwise had known, and those “friendships” can enhance our lives and our communities.
One person, whom I’ll simply call “L,” messaged me shortly after my installation last August. When I looked at her profile, I saw that we had four mutual friends, three of whom were from my community in Connecticut. Fast forward a couple of months, to a funeral I officiated for the mother of a childhood friend. “L” came up and introduced herself; she had been friends with my friend’s older sister for 25+ years. Small world, isn’t it?
Fifty or 60 years ago, having Shabbat and festival services, along with a Hebrew school and perhaps an Adult Ed program or two, were enough to keep people engaged with a synagogue community, but in 2018, that’s no longer the case. As a Baby Boomer, I remember the Hebrew school of my youth, and while I was the rare person who actually liked Hebrew school, I can’t say that my memories are all positive. This was the shadow of the Holocaust, the State of Israel wasn’t even 20 years old, and its survival as a Jewish homeland certainly wasn’t a guarantee.
Many of my contemporaries, if they chose to join synagogues when their children were young, are no longer affiliated. Declining participation in religious organizations is certainly not limited to synagogues; most churches are seeing a similar trend. There are many reasons for this, but one is that Baby Boomers and older adults are looking for a community where they can find and create meaning and purpose in their lives – how do we grow older without getting old? How do we continue to live full lives despite the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges we face as we age?
One of my goals as MJC’s rabbi is to provide opportunities for us to engage in this important conversation, and to create programs and activities that will help us to remain an active and vibrant Jewish community that serves a wide range of needs and interests.
As we move towards the festival of Shavuot, when we celebrate the bringing of the first fruits and the giving of the Torah, it’s worth noting that all of our celebrations and observances – joyous and not – must be done in community. I am blessed to be part of the kehillah kadosha, the holy community, that is MJC.
Rabbi Susan Elkodsi