It’s that time of year when people looking to join a synagogue go “shul shopping” and visit various synagogues. It’s also a time when synagogues hold open houses to recruit new members. There are a lot of simple things that temples can do to make visitors feel welcome. How many of the following does your synagogue do?
1. Does your spiritual leader/rabbi greet new people and regular congregants as they enter the building or the Sanctuary?
2. Do other clergy, such as an assistant rabbi or cantor greet people?
3. Do executive board members greet visitors and make them feel welcome?
4. When there is a sit-down Oneg or sit-down Kiddush, do congregants invite visitors to sit with them?
5. If a visitor does sit at your table does everyone introduce themselves?
6. Do people sitting at the table make an effort to include new people/visitors in the conversation?
7. When the visitor leaves, do people say things like, “It was nice to meet you. Please come again”?
8. If someone at the table leaves before the visitor leaves, do they say something similar like, “Hope to see you again”?
The above actions are simple things that anyone can do, and they go a long way toward making someone feel welcome. If visitors feel welcome and have a good experience, they will want to return.
A little courtesy can go a long way, it costs nothing to do and is easy to implement. But the lack of such action can cost a synagogue potential members – and even existing members. If all synagogues adapted these actions, perhaps there would be less “shul shopping” and fewer unaffiliated Jewish people.
There’s always room for improvement and what better time than now – to decide to make a change and strive for improvment as we enter the High Holy Day season.