We’re All Immigrants Somewhere

Do you know when to bow? When to stand up? Do you avoid synagogue because it is alien?

You’re an immigrant.

Not to the U.S. of course, but to Jewish prayer.

I realized this many years ago when I saw how uneasy immigrants to the United States felt, worried they were doing or saying something foolish, something against the mysterious rules silently cultivated by every society. And they also realized that other people thought they were stupid simply because they couldn’t speak the language. English speakers would speak loudly and slowly, as if that would close the gap.

Yes, we are all immigrants somewhere. If you step out of your house you will one day feel ill at ease. Remember that the next time you see an immigrant. Or you see someone who walks into the synagogue, tentative and bewildered.

Imagine you were the immigrant — how grateful would you be for the host who says, “It’s OK. We all had to learn. We all come from and come to. Join us. You’ll see — it’s your home, too.”

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).


About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.