September 2020 -- Elul 5780-Tishri 5781,  Volume 26, Issue 9

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Synagogue Connect, Now Expands to 31 Countries and 1200 Synagogues

By Rabbi Ronald Brown


Some might say, Synagogue Connect, is the story of a diminishing Jewish community. For years, people have been commenting about synagogue closings or mergers. Doors were being shut because there simply weren’t enough Jews to keep them open. It wasn’t so much about demographics as it was about the fact, that for many, Judaism was no longer the focus of their lives, certainly not a priority.


A little over four years ago, Synagogue Connect began with a simple vision, namely, offer free access to Jewish youth, now 18 to 30years old, for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and warmly welcome them back into the Jewish community. It started with couple of hundred synagogues (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Chabad...) and quickly expanded to 1,200 synagogues in 31 countries.


Last year, Synagogue Connect reached over 4,000 Jewish youth who visited its website. Did they all attend? Probably not. But for those who did, some would want to return. Things were going well and then came the Coronavirus. It seemed as though doors would close even further.


Now people who would have wanted to attend, were told to stay home. People who were looking forward to once again being with longtime friends, needed to step back and keep a distance. And yet this is not the end of the story, far from it.


Synagogue Connect is trying to find a new way to bring people together. There are synagogues which are still offering limited seating with social distancing; while other synagogues are now relying on virtual services. It is as though Synagogue Connect is offering a Global Passport; visit a synagogue Across the Globe or just Around the Corner. Find a synagogue in London, Tel Aviv, or in your own backyard.


Charles Dickens opens his novel with the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....” Jewish history has often experienced both concurrently; the best of times and the worst of times. During this difficult period, Synagogue Connect is trying to keep the doors open. The welcome mat reads: Connect with your past, Connect with our future.


If you know someone, tell someone.