6 Vital Resources for Your Congregation's High Holiday Prep

August 20, 2019Daphne Macy

As the High Holidays are approaching, we know your congregational leadership is working hard to prepare for a meaningful holiday season. To help you during this busy time, we’ve compiled a few important High Holiday resources for your congregation.

1. Create a safe and inclusive space for your community.

Many congregations have sought a stronger security presence this year to ensure the safety of all who enter their sacred space. It’s important to ensure that best security practices are unified with principles related to diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure that everyone – including those from marginalized communities – feels safe in your congregation.

To learn more about balancing security and inclusion during the High Holidays and beyond:

2. Make sure prospective guests know how to join you.

The many members, local non-members, and out-of-town guests interested in attending High Holiday services in your congregation have different experiences, backgrounds, and levels of Jewish knowledge, so it’s important to remove barriers to participation in order to include them all.

If your services are open to the public:

  • Communicate about them in places where non-members might be looking, including on social media and secular press. You can download and utilize these new ads - geared towards first-time members - and customize them with your congregation's contact information, logo, and congregational photos.
  • Be sure your website shares clear information about services on your homepage, including event dates, pricing, and congregational contacts.
  • Use our congregational portal to update your congregational listings to be sure they appear on ReformJudaism.org. This list of congregational offerings is promoted extensively via email newsletters to spiritual seekers, college students, members of URJ congregations who are traveling for the holidays, and more.

Finally, make sure that the person answering your phone knows about opportunities for people who are unaffiliated. It’s crucial that this person is warm and welcoming, as their tone can create either a gateway to or a barrier from your congregation.

3. Meet the needs of everyone who walks through your doors.

There are many ways to do this, so think through the details, including:

  • Provide clear information in your space so people know where to go – and be sure to also provide an option for all-gender bathrooms.
  • Post signage that clues guests into your congregational norms.
  • Make sure greeters know your synagogue policies and are on the lookout for those who might benefit from extra assistance.
  • Plan in advance for ways to accommodate people with disabilities.

For additional tips, check out “6 Ways Your Congregation Can Be Even More Welcoming at Rosh HaShanah.”

4. Pay special attention to youth.

Ensure that teens feel included and engaged around the High Holidays by communicating directly with them using teen-friendly mediums – including text messages and Instagram – and having your teen leaders personally reach out to engage other teens.

Be sure to create youth-specific experiences as well as opportunities for them to meaningfully participate in general congregational. For additional tips from Jewish youth professionals, check out “10 Ways to Welcome Teens at the High Holidays.”

5. Help new and non-members prepare.

During the High Holidays, more than the usual members will walk through your doors, and some new members, out-of-town guests, and spiritual seekers may not know what to expect. ReformJudaism.org offers a myriad resources for you to post on your congregational social media page or send directly to those planning to attend your service, including “Five Things to Know about Attending High Holiday Services,” child-friendly High Holiday activities, holiday recipes, and more.

6. Connect congregants who are traveling for the holidays to a Jewish home away from home

Members of your congregation who are traveling during the High Holidays may be in search of another synagogue to attend while they’re out of town. Encourage them to fill out or share with other congregational members our High Holiday reciprocal seating form, which allows them to request High Holiday worship seating at another URJ member congregation.

As you head into this busy but sacred season, know that we at the URJ are here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via the Knowledge Network or in The Tent if you have any questions or seek additional resources. L’shanah tovah!

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