You already know how to host a beautiful, profound, and Jewishly meaningful seder. What you may not yet know, though, is how to re-imagine your usual traditions to incorporate digital content that will enliven this year’s virtual rendition of your seder.
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Email and other technologies are a huge factor in why employees feel like they're always on the clock. This "always-on" culture accelerated while synagogues began facing declining membership before the pandemic and has only intensified since. Even if clergy or staff are cut, the work demands don't decrease. As a result, remaining clergy or staff or volunteers are even more overwhelmed and are burning out at alarming rates.
On the Jewish calendar, the start of the month of Elul signifies the beginning of the High Holiday season. As individuals, it is during this time that we begin the process of cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul), reflecting on the past year. So too, it is important for your leadership and community to reflect on the past year and consider how to do better moving forward.
It is hard to believe that we are entering the third High Holiday season with the words "new normal" ringing in the back of our minds. This year, our leaders - clergy, professionals, and volunteers alike - are leaning into the possibilities and making plans for the new Jewish year of 5783.
By now, we hope that you have heard about the URJ Pulse+ Survey that will be launching on July 18, when all URJ congregation presidents, senior and solo rabbis, and executive directors will receive an email inviting the congregation to participate.
Rabbi Philip Bazeley (he/his) has implemented an innovative fundraising model for his congregation at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey. So far, he has raised $10,800 for RAC New Jersey, which is compelling early proof of the sustainability of his approach. He shared his thoughts and strategies for fundraising to empower other communities in formulating their own strategies.
Even when our congregations consist of members with a broad range of political perspectives, there tends to be a preponderance of attitudes in a particular direction. This often leads to those in the minority feeling alienated from synagogue life. While this might happen in either direction, in my congregation, as in most URJ congregations, the members tend to be more politically liberal, in correlation with a more progressive religious viewpoint. This correlation is not perfect, however, and a minority of members are politically conservative.
A few years ago, when my son was still pretty young, we were heading out to participate in Friday night services for families with young children. When he asked where we were heading, I said, "We're going to Temple Micah." We weren't going to the building on Wisconsin Avenue that is Temple Micah, we were heading to a local coffee shop and bookstore where services were being held. But to me, that was Temple Micah. The people we would see, the feeling we would get by being together - all of that was Temple Micah - not the temple building itself.
According to conventional wisdom, congregations will look different in 10-15 years. If this is the case, we need leadership that can come together to actively create our future. Otherwise, we will be reacting passively to forces and trends, and are less likely to be successful.