Dear Synagogue Leaders: Go Back Better (to In-Person)

May 6, 2021Rabbi Paul Kipnes

Dear Synagogue Leaders,

We keepers of the flame
Of Jewish communal living

Know --
If we haven’t already done so
That the time to go back
Is arriving soon.

We want to go back to in-person worship
We want to go back to in-person meetings
We want to go back to in-person learning
But in going back, are the ways of the past worth repeating?

Many of us crave a return to what’s normal
Many of us crave a return to what was
But should we crave a return to the unhealthy
pace, pressure, dysfunction -- just because?

Talk Together: Lay Leaders, Clergy and Staff

Have lay leaders, clergy and staff talked, really talked?
Have we listened, really listened?
Are we sure how best to return to before?
Shall we take the risk to create a better after?

Did we notice those who grew in creativity?
Did we notice those who thrived?
Are we aware of parents bonding with their children,
What they could do now without excuses contrived?

Embrace New Ways of Working

The pandemic disrupted those old work processes
So why not take a test drive into new possibilities?

Does our staff really need to be in shul every weekday?
Are they most productive sitting right there in their seats?
Might there be another way to ensure the work’s getting done
Without enslaving them to the temple’s timesheets?

Might we learn improved ways of supervising?
Might we explore more productive ways to set goals?

Let’s commit now to going back better
in ways that are better for our souls.

Why be enslaved to the old workday system?
Where in Torah did God command 9-to-5?
Why can’t people work sometimes from home?
While others work on those days at shul?
Or set aside days for remote working or flex hours?

Embrace a Healthier “New Now”

Let’s not rush back to what was.
It wasn’t healthy, creative, or make sense.
Let’s go back better, embrace a healthier “New Now”
We’ll thrive, retain staff, with little expense

That’s what my shul is striving to do.
Maybe you will too.

Dear Synagogue Leaders,

The future’s in your hands,
So be disruptive
Study the lessons of distanced working –
And then let’s concede
That there might be many new ways of working better
Making our staffs  happier and our synagogues succeed.

It doesn’t have to be how it was.
It could be better.
We can make it so.

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