I am a regular reader of Leah Garchik’s Datebook column in the San Francisco Chronicle. This past Monday she wrote about a party at Glide Memorial Church. In describing the joyful nature of the event, she made an observation that has stuck with me. She wrote, “The purpose of every party – and the purpose of every church, really – is to create a parallel universe governed by benevolence. At the best parties, no one is hungry or thirsty, strangers not only to talk to strangers but embrace them, and pump fists in tandem on the dance floor and – for a few hours at least – everyone is delirious with the pleasure of forgetting their differences.”
I resonate to Garchik’s observation that a church, or, more broadly, a house of worship, should be like a parallel universe to the world at large. In the outside world, market forces foster a utilitarian view of human beings as a means to an end. In our schools, young people face enormous pressures to excel in order to achieve “success.” In contrast, in our synagogue, people are affirmed not for what they do, but for who they are. We embrace one another, support each other, and together build a sacred community.
However, there is one aspect of Leah Garchik’s description of a house of worship being a “parallel universe” in which I disagree. For any house of worship to be relevant in the lives of its members, it also must be deeply engaged in the world.Certainly Glide is a stellar example of a church that seeks to be a “just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization”
Here at Temple Beth Torah, we too pursue Tikkun Olam, healing our fractured world in multiple ways through our High Holy Day Food Drive; serving meals at the Abode Shelter; participating in the Jewish Family Service Embrace-a-Family; and marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade. But of course there is much more we can do.
At tonight’s Shabbat service, Rabbi Jessica Kirschner will be speaking to us about the social justice work taking place in the Reform Movement. In particular, she will share with us efforts being made locally in California, wherein Reform congregations are partnering to work together, amplifying our voices and concerns. I hope you will come hear her this Shabbat evening.
Know this: Temple Beth Torah is both a sanctuary from the world at large as well as a place for gaining inspiration from Judaism to go forth and transform the world. The walls of our congregation are not meant to keep the world at bay, but instead they are bridges for everyone to enter and then to go forth with joy.