There is a huge push in the organized Jewish community towards more outreach. Outreach to disengaged Jews, outreach to young adults, outreach to college students, outreach to young families, out – out – out. While I clearly agree that we need to outreach to all of these populations, I think there is something which is getting pushed aside in the process — reaching in.
There are far too many people who have gotten lost. Who were engaged until something came up and they got less focused and don’t know how to jump back in. Who landed in one place that maybe wasn’t their ideal fit. Who are going through the motions but don’t feel connected. Who are on the periphery and searching for ways to get to the middle. These people need our community to reach out to them even more.
As a Jewish communal professional, I see the outreach every day. As the author of this blog and a social worker, I see the people who need the inreach also. The outreach is what garners attention, while the inreach often gets pushed aside. Its not the award winning projects, but it is what can make a difference in our communities in a real and tangible way. It is where each of us, without any funders or organizational support, can make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Just this week, I had a friend express that she was struggling, all it took was inviting her to come to services with me on Friday night and to join us for dinner to get her reconnected and reengaged. We discussed some of her interests and how she can get involved in those parts of our community – and it made a difference. These aren’t big things, but they make a big difference.
So today’s post is a plea and a call to action. Take notice of who you used to see at shul and haven’t in awhile and see what is going on with them. Check in with friends who don’t seem to be out and about like they have been in the past. Make yourself available. Learn about the places in your community where individuals can get involved, and share them. Don’t be afraid to make shidduchs (matches) between people with like interests, or people and agencies where they can get involved.
Step up and step outside of your box to help someone else find the next step in their Jewish journey.