Our little community has worked so hard to find a balance between security and welcoming. I have said myself, many times, that I would rather err on the side of hospitality…
And then there was that moment. I stood at the Ark ready to remove the Torah so we could dance and celebrate before rolling it back. From the bima I could see my entire community and him.
He was a stranger, standing in the foyer, wearing a black suit and white shirt, his smallish glasses and simple clothes looked almost Orthodox, his lack of kippot indicated that he was decidedly not.
He stood stock still watching us intently as we read the hakafot and danced… It was unnerving. Who was this person? I found myself looking closer, no bulges under his jacket to indicate a weapon. I began to ask others, “Do you know him? Have you seen him before?”
Someone told me that he had come to say Kaddish for his father… Shortly after, Marilyn, who is basically everyone’s favorite bubbe, was in the lobby giving him a gentle hug. When it was time for Kaddish he cried as we recited. After he stayed for kiddush and hamotzi and the oneg.
I left rather late. Just a few people remained and he was one of them. My heart overflowed with joy as I realized that this stranger in need found what he needed in our little community.
It is so difficult to find the balance. I am thankful for our security team who met him at the door and were able to find out enough about him to let him in the building, and who then let the right people know what was going on so that our congregation was able to be at ease with him.
It isn’t an easy thing to be secure and wide open at the same time, but I think we’re doing the best we can.
In other news I had a grand time making this very special challah for simchat Torah.