And you shall rejoice before the L‑rd, your G‑d, you and your son and your daughter . . . in the place in which the L‑rd, your G‑d, will choose to establish His Name.1

Twenty years ago, many synagogues in Melbourne had two types of regular attendees: the zeides (grandfathers) and the Kaddish-sayers.

The zeides were there because they’d been bought up going to shul,and they kept on going. They came from Poland or Russia. They’d grown up the East End of London or were immigrants from South Africa and Zimbabwe (though they still referred to it as Rhodesia). They had accents and pacemakers. They had numbers on their forearm, wore hats when driving, and would start off almost every sentence with the words “In my day . . . ” They came in a variety of packages, but they were all old, and they all sat by themselves.

Their children? They came to shul for a couple of hours on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and then showed up again for a slightly longer visit on Yom Kippur. Sure, they’d be there for their folks when they needed a lift to the doctor’s clinic, and they would never miss a birthday party or Seder, but synagogue attendance was infrequent at best.

The Kaddish-sayers would unfortunately start coming to shul after the zeides stopped. Newly bereaved, with stubble beards and awkward yarmulkes perched at precarious angles, you’d see them stumbling over the Aramaic words throughout the week of shivah. If they were properly welcomed by the old-timers and suitably encouraged by the rabbi, they’d often keep coming back throughout the 11 months of mourning. Slowly, they’d make friends and familiarize themselves with the patterns and practices of shul. The Kaddish would roll more smoothly off the tongue, and they’d mark out a permanent pew for themselves. Many would even keep coming back after the year was up, guaranteeing a permanent minyan (quorum of ten) for the next class of Kaddish-sayers.

But it’s not like that anymore. The old divisions have vanished. Now the average synagogue boasts an intergenerational lineup of attendees. Shul-going is fashionable and fun. People come to meet and make friends, and they plan their days and weeks around the services. People sit proudly next to their parents— fathers next to sons, mothers next to grandmothers—while the little kids flit back and forth between their parents (stopping off on the way to visit the “candy man”).

When you consider the way shuls throughout the world have been revolutionized lately, you can’t help but be enthused by the future prospects for Judaism. This is the best possible way to demonstrate that the building we’re sitting in is a place where G‑d has chosen to establish His name, and the incredible sight of Jews of all ages sitting in shul and praying to the one G‑d is truly a reason to rejoice before the L‑rd.