The Synagogue as a “For-Prophet”

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We know that synagogues are called “not-for-profit” institutions. Like so many charities, they work to educate, uplift, inspire and heal us and our society. We need to sustain Jewish life through synagogues, for no other Jewish organization has the ability to reach us in as intimate and lifelong a way as a shul.

Good congregations have purpose, vision and dreams. They want to remind people to care – ethically and lovingly – about life and relationships and they help us to guide our children, grandchildren and ourselves in forming and maintaining values. Good congregations encourage us to see our lives in community and not alone and they are an important corrective to the all-too-human tendency to just “look out for number one.”

Good synagogues, especially liberal ones, want us to think outside of the box, analyze, critique and fully understand. They remind us to remain idealistic and inclusive, welcoming and kind, passionate and curious and funny and even irreverent and they make us proud to be a counter-cultural minority for as Rabbi Leo Baeck taught: “A minority is always compelled to think – that is the blessing of being in the minority.”

Attending a synagogue may even make you healthier! A new study from Baylor University found that those who attend synagogue have “significantly better health than non-practicing Jews.” According to Dr. Jeffrey Levin, University Professor of Epidemiology, in a survey of 5000 Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox Jews, just affiliating improves your health; even more, if you attend infrequently and, most of all, if you attend regularly.

Belonging to a community is good for us; social support enhances life. But the study found even more – that a synagogue, as opposed to only meditating alone, going to book groups, or even health clubs, engendered a level of interpersonal connection far more profound than other group activities. It also inspired volunteerism, that is strongly associated with good health, as well as empathy, expressed in both gemilut hasadim/acts of kindness to individuals and involvement in Tikkun Olam/Social Action projects for the betterment of society as a whole.

University Synagogue is such a congregation – inspiring the mind and the heart and interested in changing the world. Join in our vision, ideals and dreams. Attend, volunteer, study, make friends, share your life with us and lean on us for support. Help make us an even better “for prophet” community.


Rabbi Arnold Rachlis

June 1st 2015 |