Initiative in Synagogues: “Coaches” for Secular Jews
Yitzhak Tessler • Ma’ariv (p. 11)
Translation: Didi Remez • Coteret.com
For the information of secular Jews who want to go to a synagogue during the High Holidays and have no idea what is actually done there: As part of a new project being initiated by religious Zionist leaders, every secular Jew who comes to a synagogue will be greeted with a seat, a kippa, a smile, and if he wants, a personal “coach” who will guide him through the prayers.
Dozens of national-religious organizations from around the country have joined to carry out the unique project, which is called “Make Yourself at Home,” including the Tzohar rabbis, Bnei Akiva, the religious settlement groups, Maale, Noam and more. Last night, a special gathering was held in Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan, in which the first 30 rabbis to take part in the project met. One of the initiators is Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn, rabbi of the Tel Aviv Synagogue-Congregation Beit El, which is located on the corner of the streets Frishman and Ben Yehuda.
“I can certainly understand the distress of a secular person who comes to a synagogue, because my father was secular and only returned to Judaism after the Holocaust, and I have secular relatives,” said Rabbi Konstantyn, who immigrated to Israel from the US.
In order to make things easier for the secular worshipers, for example, the rabbi made sure that all the prayer books in the synagogue would be of the same edition, making it possible to announce out loud the page number from which the congregation is praying at the time. On Yom Kippur, the new worshipers will receive explanations about the different prayers, and at the end of the fast a meal will be held in which all the worshipers and their children will participate. On Simhat Torah, everyone will dance with Torah scrolls, and there are many more events and ideas planned for the rest of the years, along with the expansion of the project.
“This project is the essence of our role as religious people,” adds MK Uri Orbach, who is accompanying and advising the project. “We have to offer partnership in the world of Torah and prayer to our neighbors. We have a shared Jewish basis, and the aspiration is for everyone who celebrates a bar mitzvah or wedding, for example, to come to a synagogue, and for every congregation to have a hospitable sukkah. The goal is for secular Jews to feel that they are part of the synagogue, and are not strangers.”