By Mike Steklof
Think back to a time when you felt welcomed into a communal space or a communal experience. Was it when you joined a new professional association or during your favorite group exercise class, at the home of a dear friend or at a Shabbat service at a synagogue? Or, maybe it was something entirely different. Regardless of the situation you imagined, being in a welcoming space is wonderful because it fosters a sense of community and makes you feel part of something greater then yourself. The sense of being welcomed can lead to a deeper connection with others and the feeling of safety, security, and acceptance.
Many of us are privileged enough to experience feeling welcome in a variety of different spaces, which makes it easy to forget that this is not the case for everyone. There are visible and invisible barriers which prevent individuals from feeling welcome in communal spaces. This idea is a driver behind the work of the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning’s new Inclusion Planning Team, which is exploring ways to ensure that all feel welcome in Jewish Buffalo.
I have always thought of Abraham as my role model when it comes to welcoming. He positioned himself at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day and he proactively sought out passing travelers and invited them to seek shelter from the heat by entering his tent. He welcomed guests eagerly and worked to ensure they had everything they needed to feel welcome. I challenge each of us to think about how we can use Abraham as our model to eagerly and proactively ensure that Jewish Buffalo is a welcoming community.
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