Some years ago I needed to get in touch with a colleague in New York City. At the time this colleague was working in a rather large congregation in the city. When I called I was taken aback when the phone was not answered by a human being rather an electronic switchboard. It was the kind of electronic switchboard that required you to go to a directory if you didn’t know your party’s extension which of course I didn’t. I then dialed the extension. The extension rang and rang and rang that is until I got the voice mail of my colleague’s secretary asking me to leave a message which I did. I got off the phone and thought I’m so glad I don’t work in that congregation.
I know electronic switchboards save money. I know that they also enable more work to be accomplished. However there are certain enterprises (doctors’ offices, police and fire stations and most assuredly synagogues) that should never adopt their use even for the most principled reasons.
I believe in the power of first impressions. So then what is the first impression a person gets when he/she calls a synagogue and hears an electronic voice? A cold institution, a place where people are not well received, a synagogue that heralds expediency over human contact? When a person calls a synagogue there should be a warm receptive human voice answering that call.
Our world is cold and insensitive enough. Things often are given more importance than people. It’s nice to know that synagogue can be warm and sensitive. It’s nice to know that in synagogue people are always valued more than things. It’s nice to know that whenever you call us here at Temple we will embrace you with a warm and friendly “hello.”