Open Door Judaism: President’s Remarks on Rosh Hashanah

Editor’s Note: This speech was originally given on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Sept 2022)

L’Shana Tovah!

It is wonderful to see so many of you in this space.

I want to speak with you about Open-Door Judaism, how Shomrei epitomizes the spirit of the open-door philosophy and how we can each engage with it, and Shomrei during this new year. Open Door Judaism at Shomrei means the active and ongoing removal of barriers to find comfort and spirituality in the Judaism each member wishes to explore.

Those barriers can come in many forms – economics of participation can be a barrier, physical space can be a barrier, your state of health and/or illness can be a barrier, what is being taught can be a barrier, time can be a barrier – and many other things that can be unique to each individual can be a barrier as well. Engaging in the effort to create an open door rooted in faith is to remove those barriers. At Shomrei – the door is open.

We started strong years ago by changing from a dues model to a sustaining share model that allows anyone to participate us on a pay-what-you-can basis. We want you and your family with us. We don’t charge for tickets to the High Holy Days. We don’t require extra fees to participate in events. We don’t hold multiple fundraising drives each year. We want to meet each congregant where they are – understand their financial limits and welcome them. At Shomrei, the door to membership is open.

We are continuing that effort with the introduction of amazing new programs like Zamru, our musical shabbat service, brought by Rabbi Julie from her Princeton Hillel, where she helped found it, and with our new Selichot programming to kick off the High Holy Days. If you haven’t experienced either of these – I highly encourage you to take advantage at the next opportunity to join these and other events. Our fantastic Tot Shabbat and Hinei Mah Tov programming has restarted for our youngest, and seeing the bright smiles on the children’s and parent’s faces this past weekend reminded me of how valuable these gatherings are – how critical these early exposures are to establishing a life of faith for each child. The work of creating new events and reimagining long-standing traditions will continue! All you need to do is show up. At Shomrei, the door musical and family prayer is open.

We are looking to expand existing and craft new youth and adult education classes. Not everyone is at the same education level and not everyone wishes to study the same topics in the same ways – but many of us are eager for a deeper understanding and exploration of our Jewish faith. We can engage with you at every level, and provide a growing educational experience, not only for our amazing pre-school, JLC and B’Nai Mitzvah children, but for young parents, new retirees, established congregants and older scholars too. These levels of interest may not only be divided by age, but also by lived experience! Perhaps a new convert wishes to continue their education, but is unsure where to start. Or a young parent seeks new ways to learn with their family as it grows. Or parents whose children have left the home wish to find comfort in the company of peers looking to explore religion. At Shomrei, the door to your Jewish education is open.

Maybe you perceive a mainstay of Judaism as Tikkun Olam – which means literally “Repair The World”. Social action and justice are consistently in the forefront of work at Shomrei. From the Mensch Squad, who dutifully prepares meals, provides rides, and shows up for our members in need, wherever and whenever that need emerges, to MESH, providing meals weekly to many people in our town with food insecurity, to our IHN/Family Promise program which focuses on supporting refugees without a home – giving them the support needed to get on their feet and make a go of it on their own. Marching to protect Women’s rights. Supporting the work of Black Lives Matter. So many of us see a role in supporting Social Action and Justice and here at Shomrei, there is always a way to engage. If you can’t find what you want, ask us how you can make it yourself. There is room for more. At Shomrei, the door to Tikkun Olam is open.

Perhaps you find your strongest connections to Judaism through community. The act of gathering together to consecrate a holiday, or to share a delicious homemade meal, to pray, and to console those who have lost a loved one. When we are together, we are strongest. When we support one another, we are at our most spiritual. Everything I have spoken about so far is tied deeply to our community – to finding your place in it and brining your whole and authentic Jewish self to the work and the joy we want you to find with us. At Shomrei, the door to community is open.

I am so excited. I am excited because of what’s next for me and my family. I know when I figure out what I need, what I want, what my family and friends desire to find, the doors of Shomrei are WIDE open. Let’s give love and give ourselves wholly to the work and to bringing down barriers and to each of you I say: Let’s walk through these open doors together.

Happy New Year everyone and L’Shana Tovah.

Watch Michaels’ talk:


Michael Sag

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