Jewish leaders today struggle with the indifference and alienation that so many Jews feel toward the organized Jewish community. This, in turn, obligates leaders to communicate inclusiveness, warmth, caring and encouragement. I have heard charisma defined as a quality that makes everyone touched by it feel special. We not only feel inspired; sometimes we even feel loved. We feel like we belong.
Dr. Erica Brown, Inspired Jewish Leadership
September is a time when our communities are at their busiest, as we get ready for the High Holy Days. Our days are filled with preparation, from the most mundane task of sending out schedules for worship services to the most profound personal and spiritual preparation for tshuvah. As the Gates of Repentance reminds us, Our tradition calls this, cheshbon hanefesh, the examined life, when a whole people labors to remake itself. For those of us responsible for membership, this is a time when we recommit to the profound mitzvot of hospitality and of ahavat ger, loving the stranger, as we greet new and longtime members and invite prospective members to become part of our community.
Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, PA, initiated a wonderful program that reflects the spirit of the High Holy Days and the quotation by Dr. Brown, above. Their Open Tent Initiative is a consciousness-raising campaign to engage every member of the congregation in making Rodeph Shalom a more welcoming place for new and prospective members.
How can we ensure that we will keep in close touch with our newest members during the crucial first year of their membership? Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor, MI, has found a way with their creative New Member Bulletin. This is a publication (written by volunteers) that is distributed three times a year to all first year members. Articles are designed to provide insight into temple events, customs and personalities, and offer timely information about upcoming activities of special interest for new members. The intent is to supplement, not replicate the monthly bulletin.
In addition to these online resources, the URJ is also planning an extraordinary Biennial convention. Taking place just outside Washington, DC, on December 14-18, the Biennial will have several workshops and resources focusing on the three tenets of Membership: recruitment, integration and retention. Join us to learn with and from your North American colleagues and other Membership professionals.
Wishing all of you a peaceful, joyous and productive New Year. May your work in our sacred communities bear fruit that is worthy of your efforts and devotion.
Union for Reform Judaism
Upcoming Opportunities for Your Congregation:
URJ North American Biennial, December 1418, 2011:Have you registered yet for the 2011 URJ Biennial in greater Washington, DC, on Dec. 14-18, 2011? More than 4,000 Reform Jews will attend this formidable gathering. If you have been to a Biennial in previous years, then you know just how special it is. If you havent been to a Biennial yet, its an experience you wont want to miss!
The URJ Biennial is where Reform Jews gather to learn, pray, share ideas, dance and sing, hear from inspiring guest speakers, reunite with old friends, make new connections and make decisions about the policies of the Reform Movement. This Biennial will include some extraordinary events including the largest Shabbat gathering in the world; learning sessions that were created by YOU; renowned speakers; top-notch entertainment; and the chance to network with your peers.
Membership Certification Program, April 19April 22, 2012 Join us in Cleveland for four days of comprehensive training regarding all aspects of Membership: recruitment, integration and retention at the Schindler Fellows Program for Membership Certification. Participants will assess the challenges and strengths of their home congregation and learn best practices from across North America to plan an effective Membership strategy for their synagogue community.
Please note that limited scholarships are available for small, medium and large congregations. For details about the program and scholarship information, contact Kathy at 212.650.4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advertising Grant OpportunityNational Center to Encourage Judaism: The NCEJ will pay half of the cost of your advertising in the secular press, up to $1,200 twice a year, for programs that welcome the unaffiliated, Jewish or not, and invite them to attend beginner-level programs about Judaism, including the URJs Taste of Judaism and Introduction to Judaism classes. Hosting a class or program for those interested in Judaism is an effective way to invite new members into your community!