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Oh my gosh…

Why have people at shul been so nice?

A couple of the mature, Jewish ladies at my synagogue have been so sweet to me. They ask me about myself and invite me to partake of the oneg Shabbat refreshments. And the gentlemen, too…they’re so smiley and welcoming. Maybe it’s because I wear my nicest business formal attire, and they think might suspect I’m actually someone distinguished. They always ask “are you visiting from out of town?” And “what brings you here?” But they have been so kind.

Part of the reason this means so much to me is that it feels a bit like a warm family, which I am passionate about. I can count the number of times my family has felt genuinely warm, so I find it amazing that shul has felt so warm the times I’ve visited.

I almost want to cry, how nice and welcoming people have been. It seems the ones I’ve talked to are really trying. Would hugs be appropriate? It’s hard to resist the motherly charm of some of these mature ladies. They ask you how you’re doing and want to get to know you and you just feel cared about. I think this is something all humans innately appreciate. All the emotional calluses you’ve developed just soften. Someone on here recommended finding a Jewish bubbe.

(I also worry that they might wonder why I’m not over with the Hillel crowd nearby. But isn’t Hillel only for undergraduates? What about the Jews between the ages of 22 and 50? Where are they on Saturdays? I noticed a few at shul today—one about my age, but accompanied by a parent and of opposite gender. (But I didn’t want to approach, because I’m still getting my bearings and also it might’ve gotten misconstrued as a romantic advance.) One other was maybe a couple years older than me and the same gender, but I only saw them in the worship area. And then there was someone maybe 10-20 years my senior. I’ve seen a few other people closer to my age on other days, but they weren’t in attendance today, I guess. I notice quite a few agemate Jews in the area on dating apps, but maybe they all just attend Hillel. What other ways might I meet Jews closer to my age? I don’t have a fervent desire to do so, but I also recognize that the congregants are retirees and susceptible to illness and whatnot that might not make them reliable sources of friendship and etc. as the years pass.)

But at the same time, I know people have boundaries, and I want to avoid making anyone uncomfortable. I just stick to handshakes, and I assume no one actually cares about me and that they’re just being kind and welcoming.

Also, nearly everyone at shul is like 50-70 years old. This is great, in the sense that I feel perfectly comfortable around people of more mature age, anyway. I enjoy being around them more than they probably realize. A lot of them are retired intellectuals…and I just feel so inadequate…but they have been nice, and so I do feel at least acknowledged/respected. But I’ve taken such care to respect boundaries that I worry I come across as perhaps overly sterile.

I would like to think some of this compassion is genuine, but I have known dodgy people who have engaged in lovebombing, or ingratiating themselves with new acquaintances, and then violating the trust built by that ingratiation. So I am thus wary of my own vulnerability to getting carried away by acts of kindness.

What degree of sharing of emotions is considered typical? What about in terms of contact (handshakes, side hugs, full hugs, etc.)? Is having a Jewish bubbe a thing? I would like to contribute to shul and build genuine connections.

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