You Belong In Our Community

Bullying has captured our attention in recent years, especially as we become aware of how social media dramatically increases its destructive effect. While I am yet convinced that there is a foolproof method for kids to avoid becoming victims of bullying, I do know of a way to significantly alleviate some of its pain. Most children belong to a school community where the majority of bullying incidents occur. However, when children belong to additional groups such as athletic teams and religious youth groups, or have neighborhood friends, the emotional effect of school bullying is relatively subtle and often less detrimental. 

Those children successfully draw strength and support from their non-school networks. School may not be their favorite place while the bullying is going on, but they don’t feel as isolated and hopeless as long as they feel connected to and appreciated by the members of their other communities.  

I shared this thought with many parents (mainly to encourage them to sign their kids up for Shalom Chai, our post B’nei Mitzvah program) before I realized how important it is for adults to belong to multiple communities as well. It is true that bullying is rare among adults; but belonging to different communities also reduces stress and increases happiness. For most of us, our work place, at least socially, takes the place of school. Only that in this stage of our life we typically don’t play team sports, we don’t go to youth group meetings, and certainly don’t ride our Penny Skateboards with our neighborhood friends. What seems to be natural and easy for the young becomes more complex as we grow older.  

Temple Beth Am is a community and this is one of the reasons people join us. For some, the Temple is their main community where they worship, study and socialize with their friends. For others, the connection with the synagogue is quite loose, as it is only one community among many others to which they belong. And it is all good. The goal of TBA is not to compete with the other groups in your life, but to be there for you when you need us. We are not a homogeneous group of people; the needs of our members are diverse and they change over time. A young couple initially spends no time thinking of schools until one day it’s all they think and talk about for the next several decades. Spirituality is usually less of an interest for those in their 20’s and 30’s as they establish themselves professionally and are busy taking care of their families but then they might feel a spiritual void they want to fill. No matter what your needs and priorities are, we want you to consider TBA as one of your communities, and we need you to help others to fulfill their need of belonging.  

We learned from our Town Hall Meetings that while we pride ourselves as being warm and welcoming, and indeed many were amazed of the ease and speed with which they felt part of TBA, it was not the case for everyone. We work very hard and are fully committed to being as accessible to you as possible. Our objective is not to require that you do more with TBA than you want, but rather to make it simple and effortless to join us for any activity you choose.  

As human beings we are programmed to live in communities. We are happier and healthier (really!) when we are with others. TBA can be a minor or a major community for you and we promise to make it both meaningful and fulfilling.  

A fun event where TBA’s members, families and friends come together is our annual Summer Picnic. This year we are gathering at a new venue - the Palm Beach Gardens Aquatic Center on Burns Road.  Come join us on Sunday, July 21st from 10:00am to 12:30pm for a casual and fun celebration.  I hope to see you there!  

Thank you for being part of our TBA community and have a happy summer, 
Rabbi Alon Levkovitz