8 Ways to Make Rosh HaShanah in Your Congregation Audaciously Hospitable

Inside Leadership

8 Ways to Make Rosh HaShanah in Your Congregation Audaciously Hospitable

Seven arms, each holding up a letter of the word Welcome

Rosh HaShanah is just around the corner, and with it comes a fresh opportunity to recommit ourselves to the work of audacious hospitality in our lives, and in our congregations and communities.

For many of us, the coming of a certain crispness to the air, a few colorful leaves, and the turning over of our Jewish new year fills us with a desire to acknowledge our actions and attitudes, and renew our personal and community intentions. And while those are meaningful desires, knowing precisely how to channel our energy can be hard, or filled with vague ideas of “doing better.”

To coincide with the sweetness of a New Year, here are eight audaciously hospitable ideas for you and your community to consider implementing – during this High Holiday season and throughout the coming year.

  1. Pair newer members of your community with established members of the congregation in a mentorship program. Encourage the established members to include the newer members for seating at High Holiday and Shabbat services, meals, and break-fasts. Encourage these pairings to continue through the calendar year!
  1. Consider volunteer and social justice opportunities that will excite and engage the substantial (and captive!) audience that will be in the synagogue during the High Holidays. Although we work to engage our whole membership year-round, the Days of Awe are one of only two or three chances to engage in a meaningful way with members who are less involved in the community. Use your creativity!
  1. Ensure your congregation’s audacious hospitality or outreach team includes members of diverse groups. The popular inclusion expression, “nothing about us without us,” urges us to include members of the groups that we are targeting in our efforts to reach them. Use the new year as an opportunity to examine anew who is doing the outreach, and how you might achieve a more diverse outcome.
  1. Start a book club in your community that focuses on issues of diversity and justice. Many synagogues in our movement have book clubs. For one calendar year, consider reading choices that highlight diverse authorship and issues of justice and inclusion. If a chosen book revolves around a marginalized population, consider hosting a speaker to dialogue about the lived experience of that group.
  1. Help your synagogue youth group actively acknowledge and meaningfully engage typically marginalized teens (such as Jews of color, LGBTQ, those from interfaith families, and teens with disabilities) and facilitate ways for them to feel valued, seen, and heard. These tips will help your congregation increase disabilities inclusion during services and these learning sessions offer strategies, tools, and skills to assist your community in becoming more inclusive -- not only at Rosh HaShanah, but all year long.

  1. Audit your congregation’s website. Potential members, visitors, and curious outsiders will come across your community’s website. Is it doing a respectable job of communicating your synagogue’s values? Does it reflect a culture of inclusivity and disability accessibility? Would different Jewish groups see themselves reflected in the images? Does its language encourage people to visit and try things out?
  1. Invite potential board members – with an eye toward diversity across the spectrum of Jewish identity – to attend a board meeting. One of the best ways to fully integrate the diversity of Jewish expression in our midst is to empower members of marginalized communities to join the decision-making process and leadership ranks of our synagogues and institutions.
  1. Download the Audacious Hospitality Pilot Toolkit! The Toolkit, a distillation of the URJ’s Audacious Hospitality initiative, contains a wealth of resources, text studies, and concrete actionable steps. Likewise, the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center offers important tools and resources to facilitate inclusion of people with disabilities into all facets of synagogue life. Both of these valuable assets can help you and your community start a conversation or give you fresh ideas to continue the one you're already having.

L’shanah tovah tikateivu, may you be inscribed for a good year.

Toby Singer is an accomplished theatre composer and playwright He has a long history of involvement in the Reform Jewish world, focused primarily on music and youth work. A Michigan native, he grew up at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, MI, and holds a music degree from the University of Michigan. Toby and his wife, Rabbi Rachel Van Thyn, live in Brooklyn with their dog Neko.

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