Small But Proud Jewish Communities

I grew up in a fairly small Jewish community. In the ’80s, Austin, Texas was not the cool mecca it is today. There was one small Reform synagogue and one small Conservative synagogue. There was only one other Jewish kid in my class in grade school. I remember each year having to explain to my teacher that I would be out for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and having her say, “Russia what?”

I know firsthand that it is not easy to live in a small Jewish community. You have to make an effort to be Jewish. You are often reminded how you are different from other people around you. And you feel isolated from Jews in New York or LA. I loved watching the TV show, Northern Exposure about Dr. Joel Fleishman, a Jewish doctor who winds up working in a tiny Alaska town to pay off a grant from the State of Alaska that helped pay for his medical school. The sweet, quirky show often highlighted what it was like for Joel to be the only Jew for miles around. There were funny episodes about how to make a minyan (the prayer quorum) so Joel could say Kaddish (the memorial prayer) for his father, how much he missed a corned beef sandwich, and could he really marry his non-Jewish Alaskan girlfriend? I so related to that show!

Now that I live in New York, other Jews are often surprised to hear that I grew up in Texas. There are Jews there they ask? Of course! There are Jews scattered across the United States in little towns and isolated communities. I have never forgotten what it felt like to live outside of a major Jewish community, and I, through my work with Rabbis Without Borders, want to reach out to small Jewish communities and connect with them.

In order to do this, Rabbis Without Borders has just launched the RWB Service Corps. The goal of the service corps is to match a small or isolated Jewish community with one of our RWB rabbis. The rabbi would be available to make a visit to the community for a couple of days and serve some of the needs of the people there. The needs that we have heard of are vast. Some communities need a rabbi to officiate at life cycle events, a bar mitzvah, funeral, or baby naming. Some want a rabbi to teach either children or adults. Some need pastoral care. We are open to people’s needs and do not want to predetermine them. If you are interested in being connected with a rabbi for your community, please fill out this Request for Service form. We will then follow up with you to make the appropriate match.

During this holiday of Sukkot, which starts today, we sit in impermanent huts to remember our wanderings in the desert. The sukkah, the hut, brings us together to eat, sing, enjoy each other’s company and celebrate life together. A gathering in a sukkah can happen anywhere.  The important part of Sukkot is the gathering itself, the people coming together. Together we are all greater than the sum of our parts. If you are part of a small but proud community, please reach out. We are here to serve you!

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