Erica Brown, a prominent rabbi in Washington, recently wrote an article complaining about a “customer service” problem in the Jewish community. “We walk into synagogues and schools . . . and no one says hello. Few know our names (maybe for months or years). A friend in an interfaith marriage says that when he takes his wife to shul, no one talks to them. When he goes to his wife’s church, everyone comes over to greet them.”
David Polonsky, director of communications at Adas, tells me that when he moved to Washington a few years ago and called around to find out about high-holiday services, he was told they would cost him hundreds of dollars. “I’m a young person calling them and asking them for a Jewish experience,” he recalls, yet no one asked for his name, let alone invited him to the synagogue. Shabbat-Hopping at least makes people feel welcome.
The conservative Adas Israel, the reform Washington Hebrew Congregation, and the nondenominational Sixth & I Historic Synagogue have all made a big deal of welcoming young professionals””even when there is no Shabbat-Hopping event.