Rabbi Hayim Herring (of STAR: Synagogues Transformation and Renewal) and the visionary behind Synaplex) has recently published a new book: Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. You should read it, and buy a copy for the senior staff and every board member of your synagogue. Here’s the link. Go take care of business and then come back and keep reading. OK, now that the box is on its way, I’ll explain why you should read — and share — this book. First, Rabbi Herring gets it. He gets the big picture vision, the fundamental changes in society, and the risks that synagogues must take to remain a vital and vibrant center of Jewish life. But he also gets the completely practical details of synagogue change efforts. The dynamics of boards, the technology infrastructures, the values questions, and the training of Rabbis to fulfill the leadership roles. Second, he’s packed tremendous punch into a skinny little book that’s easy to follow. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses that helps you see the world through a different lens. Third, this book helps you develop a vocabulary to think about the future synagogue. And this is why it’s so important to read it together. Using the same terms, and shaping a shared vision will lubricate the discussions about change, helping everyone to move forward on a shared path. In Chapter 1 he addresses head on how the rules have changed:
- from the age of organizations to toward the age of networks;
- from credentialed professionals towards avocational experts;
- from hierarchical control towards individual autonomy;from exclusivity toward inclusivity;
- from monopolization of knowledge towards democratization of knowledge;
- from assuming a fee-for-service economy towards expecting a free-for-service economy (at least at a basic level).
What does this mean for synagogues? A lot. While change is hard, it is necessary. We cannot keep our heads in the sand. We are living in a moment where the risk of staying the same is greater than the risk of change. Plain and simple. If we accept the change is necessary, then the question is what do we want, and how do we get there. Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today is a great step on that journey. How are thinking about the changing context of synagogue life, and its implications for your congregation? If you’ve read the book, what stood out for you, and how are taking action? And if you do read this book as a group, please share with us about your process and the discussions it provokes.