Belonging is natural to us. Belonging sustains us. Belonging becomes us.

Belonging is natural to us. Belonging sustains us. Belonging becomes us.

From the Rabbi David Lyon

Belonging is natural to us. Belonging sustains us. Belonging becomes us.


“Belonging” is something we crave as social beings. We crave groups that share our preferences. We join clubs, teams, friends groups, and houses of worship with those who share our likes and pleasures. That common-ground eases our way into conversation and shared experiences. Beyond our family, such groups can become our primary source of social experiences.

When we were children we were placed into playgroups. When we were teens we awkwardly chose our own group of friends. Eventually, we learned enough about ourselves to know with whom we wanted to spend most of our time, and, ultimately, with whom we wanted to spend a lifetime in marriage. Over time, each transition was marked by a ritual that highlighted where we were.

For budding teenagers, bar and bat mitzvah is the ritual that highlights their coming-of-age. When they lead worship, chant and teach from Torah, and accept the blessing of the congregation, each young boy and girl grows up a little. They become adult Jews who are distinguished by their increasing readiness to participate in religious roles. By religious, I don’t mean only ritual roles. To participate in religious roles also means to seize on Jewish values in order to make ethical choices. Is there anything more helpful to Jewish teenagers at this juncture in their lives?

For young adults who seek their life-partners, some things never change. Love comes first. It begins with a look from across the room or a swipe-right on the dating app, but either way, it’s the physical response they feel deeply that motivates them to want more. Eventually, a serious dating relationship turns to wanting to belong. In a Jewish/Jewish union, it’s fairly easy to predict that they’ll seek their rabbi to officiate at their wedding, and then to find their place within the congregation. In a Jewish/non-Jewish union, where they choose to raise Jewish children, the role of the rabbi is essential, too. I officiate at interfaith weddings, and I officiate at same-sex weddings. These are all couples seeking a rabbi, not as an accoutrement under the chuppah, but as a guide into a future of belonging. The rabbi’s support and officiation at their wedding can ease their belonging to the congregation where their preferences and experiences are welcomed by others just like them.

Belonging isn’t permanent — statistics prove that we’ll move, take new jobs, and even divorce. But, our desire to belong persists. I’m pleased that Congregation Beth Israel welcomes warmly. At Congregation Beth Israel, families and individuals plant roots and thrive among us. Worship, education, and community blend into shared experiences. Groups of friends emerge and memories are created. Though some differences of opinion can also emerge from time-to-time, they signal opportunities to learn and grow from each other. It’s a reforming process that enables a house of worship like ours to meet us where we are and lead us to a lifetime of religious personal and communal meaning.

Belonging is natural to us. Belonging sustains us. Belonging becomes us.

Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights, 2011) available on He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM every Sunday at 6:45am CST. Listeners around the greater Houston area, and now the internet, tune in to hear his words about life and its meaning from a Jewish point-of-view. Each radio program is available as a Podcast, called “Heart to Heart with Rabbi David Lyon”. Click here to listen online, or download the iHeartRadio app. 

The Hurricane Harvey Flood Fund

Hurricane Harvey left Houston and surrounding areas in a shambles, but the great people of Houston are banding together to help and heal. Your help is welcome and needed. You may send Gift Cards (Kroger, Target, HEB, Lowe’s, or Visa/Mastercard, etc.) to Congregation Beth Israel. They will be immediately distributed to area neighbors to assist in replacing essential items and children’s school supplies.

You may also Donate directly to Congregation Beth Israel by clicking here. All funds will go directly to aid those who need immediate help. These funds will NOT be held to be allocated later. On behalf of our clergy (Rabbi David Lyon, Rabbi Adrienne Scott, Rabbi Joshua Herman, Rabbi Chase Foster, and Cantor Trompeter), David Scott, Executive Director, and Bruce Levy, Temple President, we are very grateful for your kindness, generosity, and help.

Hurt has no shame and no label; we just need to heal one another.

Rabbi David Lyon

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