Unless you are an avid camper, you probably do not spend much time in a tent. And even if you do, I hope you keep it zipped up tight to avoid becoming overly friendly with the famous Chequamegon mosquitos. But the image of an open tent is a useful one for us at Mt. Sinai Congregation.
For one thing, we are reminded of stories about Sarah and Abraham. We credit them with many traits, including their estimable hospitality. Their tent was open on all sides so desert travelers could approach from any direction and be welcomed. Central Wisconsin weather is different than that of a desert climate, but our congregation still aims to be welcoming, regardless of the direction of your approach.
But this theme of openness applies beyond geography; our congregation is a safe place for everyone. We welcome members and guests of all faith origins and curiosities. We welcome folks who want to learn about Judaism, people born into Judaism, those who are ambivalent about Judaism, and anyone adjacent to Jewish life. Like a big tent, there will be some comfortable in the middle and others who prefer the periphery; all are safe under a shared canopy.
An open tent is reminiscent of the Sukkah, the temporary shelter we reenact each fall. The festival of Sukkot also features the trait of hospitality, as well as our connection to nature and the changing realities in our lives. Just as each year we might construct the sukkah a bit differently, our congregation is making small changes to accommodate our current reality. These changes include offering multiple modalities for prayer and meeting– both in person and streaming online.
Finally, an open tent is like a marriage chuppah. The structure is meaningful, connecting us to our tradition. But the events that happen therein are more important than the structure itself. The chuppah is upheld by friends and loved ones. So too, our congregation is supported by our leadership team and all those who volunteer to assist.
We are eager to welcome you back to our tent and hope you will help us in welcoming others.
B’ruchim HaBa’im! All are Welcome!
Rabbi Benjamin Altshuler