Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Stranger Among Us

Every Saturday in Shul, towards the end of services, the Rabbi starts his announcements by saying, “if you are a member here and you see someone you don’t recognize, introduce yourself. “

I think this is a nice touch. I know when my father (Z’’L) came to visit, he often commented that he felt the shul I went to was very cold as no one would come up and wish him “Good Shabbos”. This was before the new Rabbi was there. I confess, I tend to be a shy individual and prefer sticking with my friends. When it comes to faces, if it is someone I don’t know, I am not particularly great remembering them and if I have seen them before. Still, I try. I know what a difference it can make.

I have always tried to make it a point that when I work somewhere, if someone new starts, I try to go up to him or her, introduce myself and say, “welcome”. Again, I am not the most comfortable doing this but I know it means a lot to people.

When I left a job to go back to school, the people I worked with came up to say goodbye and wish me well (not surprisingly). One person told me how he remembered how I was the first one to come up to him and welcome him and how that made him feel at home. I did not even remember this. I know, however, whenever I have started a new job, it is often times difficult and appreciated when people come up to me.

I recall another instance where I was at a meeting and I introduced myself to a guest and talked to this person. A couple of years later that person came to a meeting again. He found me. I did not even recall this individual. Still, he remembered me and told me how grateful he was that I cam over and introduced myself and explained some things that were happening during the meeting.

So, if we do it at work, at meeting places, school, etc., then certainly it makes sense to go up to people we do not recognize at shul and welcome them and introduce ourselves. The camaraderie aspect is important. Often times people of larger synagogues tend to forget this. New people and visitors stick out at smaller synagogues. Still, one way to keep a larger shul healthy, vibrant and remaining large, is to welcome new people.

The Rabbi is right and we should remember to always try and introduce ourselves to the stranger in our midst.

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