Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations

Some organizations jump into social media with great excitement. Others with great trepidation. What we know is that the rules of engagement in social media are in many ways fundamentally different than those of other communication tools we’ve used in the past.  A good social media policy provides clear guidelines as to how staff should represent themselves and the organization when posting and interacting with the community, freeing them up to think more strategically. A social media policy is also likely to help leadership feel more comfortable with the less formal nature of social media by letting them establish boundaries for its use. Often to gain comfort and confidence, we need to reduce the fear, get clear on expectations, and be on the same page with our staff, supervisors, board members, and the community.

This Workbook is designed to help you, as an organization, ask important questions about social media, and how you will manage it and use it to your advantage, thoughtfully.  The Workbook is offered as a PDF download free of charge, thanks to our sponsors, The AVI CHAI Foundation, The Union for Reform Judaism, and See3 Communications.

So, are you ready? Download the PDF below, then gather your team together, start the Social Media Policy Workbook, and enjoy the journey!  Make sure to report back and share your progress! Interested in learning from others who are working on their social media policy too? Join the discussion in the
Social Media Policy Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/socialmediapolicy

Connected Congregations: Launching a Blog Carnival

We are stepping through the threshold of a new age.  Connected, individually empowered, globalized, diverse and personalized.    The technologies of today are far more than digital communication tools – they are transforming society at an increasingly rapid rate, with important implications and opportunities for the Jewish community.

Synagogues in particular are in the spotlight in this moment of transformation.  When communities are self-organizing, and individuals are seeking “anytime, anywhere” involvement, the structures of synagogue business models, programs and culture are often resonating less and less with those we seek to engage.

In partnership with UJA Federation of New York, and inspired by the work of Beth Kanter, Allison Fine, June Holley and many others, Darim Online is launching an initiative to explore what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits.  We call them Connected Congregations. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.

As we seek to create rich, connected congregations, investing in relationships is the foundation on which everything else is built.  Like fabric that’s made up of individual threads woven together, the strength of the community is dependent on the strength and character of both each individual thread (relationships) and the tightness and pattern of their weave.

But being a weaver and knitting a healthy and vibrant community takes more than good intentions.  It means knocking down ‘fortress walls’ (in the language of The Networked Nonprofit), pivoting our culture, evolving our staffing structure, and remaking our structures of leadership.  It takes real change, and active stewardship of that change over several years. There’s a lot of research and work to come for all of us. 

As we get started, we’re launching a blog carnival on Connected Congregations.  Over the next few months we’ll be handing the microphone of this blog to many smart people both from within and outside of the Jewish community, and some who straddle both worlds.  We’ll be encouraging them to share their ideas, their work, their insights and observations in order to develop a narrative and invite you into a conversation about being – and becoming – a Connected Congregation.

You can follow this series of posts on our blog by searching for #connectedcongs on our site, and following the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #connectedcongs.   Do you have a story or insight to share?  Contact Lisa Colton if you’d like to be considered for participation in the blog carnival.

This post is part of a blog series on Connected Congregations being curated by Darim Online in partnership with UJA Federation of New York.  Through this series, we are exploring what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.  We hope these posts will be the launching pad for important conversations in our community. Please comment on this post, and read and comment on others in the series to share your perspective, ideas, work and questions. Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting this work.

The Networked Nonprofit Book Club: Anytime, Anywhere Learning

(cross-posted on Beth’s Blog)

When The Networked Nonprofit first was published I grabbed a copy for myself, my staff, and my major funders, and further recommended it to the leaders of the Jewish organizations with whom I work. As I read the book, I instantly knew that this was meaty stuff that we’d all need to chew on. Facebook had recently revamped its Groups, and it seemed like the perfect place to take the conversation for a spin.

Thus began “Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club”.

My staff and I invited many people in our networks and our professional communities who we felt were “ripe” for the conversation. Those people added folks from their own networks, and the group quickly swelled to more than 50. We began the Book Club by carefully crafting a couple questions per chapter, and focusing on about one chapter per week. We quoted the book, took inspiration from the questions listed at the end of each chapter, and attempted to lead a traditional book club on Facebook.

It was working pretty well as planned. Then members started posting their own questions, and some people just found the book and joined when we were already discussing chapter 5. Actually none of this mattered. In fact, it was great. What began as ‘hub and spokes’ naturally evolved into a network discussion: the Book Club became a rich self-serve space where like-minded people came to learn with and from each other, explore ideas, share knowledge and experience, and challenge one another. We dropped the formal book club structure (Week 2: Question 3 ….”) and started to steward the conversation around Network Nonprofit themes.

We found the Book Club really thrived around 3 areas:

  1. We developed vocabulary and conceptual understandings together: Core and periphery, social media as a ‘contact sport’, and awareness of what “losing control” really means in a social media landscape, for example. By developing a shared language our Book Club bonded in a way – we could talk with each other about these ideas and visions even if our bosses and colleagues didn’t always get it. Having this peer group was validating and supportive.
  2. We rose to the challenge when members of the Book Club posted things they were wrestling with. One person’s “fear of failure” post elicited a robust conversation and sharing of case studies to help us reframe “failure” in this time of experimentation and change. Participants’ willingness to put these kinds of issues on the table furthered everyone’s learning much more than if I had formulated the questions. These posts really helped us focus not only our actions, but also how we are leading culture shift within our organizations.
  3. We embraced the fluid, emergent and evolving nature of the conversation. While we are still actively discussing the themes in The Networked Nonprofit, we are also using our Book Club to explore related works and ideas. I recently wrote a book review on our blog and a member of the Book Club commented, “we should do a Book Club for this one too!” So we introduced the book and have begun a lively (and fairly focused) discussion. Many new people joined the Facebook Group as they learned about the opportunity, and thus the size, scope, topics and energy have evolved over time, and I suspect will continue to do so.

The Facebook Group functionality has been fantastic for the Book Club. Its flat structure has enabled me to steward while not quite leading the group through our discussions. I sometimes stir the pot, drop in links to relevant articles, and ask follow up questions to deepen the discussion where I think there’s room to grow. The ability to tag anyone in the group (whether you’re Facebook friends or not) has supported a very warm and social culture, and has surely deepened the conversation by weaving participants back into threads over time. Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t (yet?) allow groups to have super succinct usernames, but you can set the group email address that does create a customized URJ (https://www.facebook.com/groups/netnonbookclub), and I also created a customized link through Bit.ly which provides an even shorter and still intuitive link as well: http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub

I am constantly inviting people to the Book Club to continue their learning after a webinar or live workshop, to ask questions of the group to support their own professional development and practice, and to find their peers in this work.

We’ve all found that this “anytime, anywhere” professional development is incredibly valuable, accessible and fun for the 200 members of the Book Club. It’s amazing simple (and cheap) for us to run, and a great way to build a professional network.  How do you take advantage of “anytime, anywhere” professional development?

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation: Adventures in Social Media and Community Building

 

As my children were beginning to leave home, we read a poem by Sheri Linder at our seder each year. In it, Linder describes each generation as leaving its own Egypt, which was, in fact, the parents’ Promised Land. Near the end, the author paints this picture of watching at the Sea of Reeds:

We will watch you for a long, long time, as you cross to the other side.
We will be more wise than Pharaoh: we will know that where you go we cannot follow.

Being an education director in a progressive synagogue is not unlike being a parent. We give children and families a strong foundation and the tools we think they’ll need, and trust that they will build lives we cannot even imagine but anchored by enduring values.

This analogy proved to be true with our social media project this year: we recognized a need, provided support and tools, and watched as our families took ownership and adapted the program over the course of the year.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation proposal to Darim was to create a chavurah of religious school families who would gather monthly to experience a variety of aspects of Shabbat, from a Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat to a Saturday evening havdalah service. A social media component would enhance the monthly in-person gatherings by allowing for ongoing conversation and idea-sharing between Shabbatot. This idea originated out of a year-long school study group in which we identified the need to educate parents in Judaism – in particular, Reconstructionist Judaism – and to nurture relationships between families so parents would model for their children their own engagement in the community.

It came as a surprise to us that few turned to social media to enrich or supplement their personal connections with each other. Rather, chavurah families invited one another to shabbat dinners and gathered in the lobby during religious school classes and choir rehearsals. People seemed more ready to make time to be with each other than to connect via technology.

We learned that people read the announcements on the Facebook page but rarely commented or posted. This even applied to members who update their own Facebook page regularly and frequently. Facebook is being used to post dates for upcoming events, coordinating such things as meals or children’s activities, and to send out reminders. After each event there are one or two parents who post a sort of shout-out to the group, usually to say thank-you. Our project leadership team was not successful in our attempts to remind participants that the congregation was looking to them as a test group to explore social media applications within the congregation. I do want to say, though, that Ellen Dietrick, our Darim coach, was a great resource to us, with a knowledgeable grasp of our concept and terrific suggestions.

Chavurah participants quickly developed ownership of the group and new leadership arose. The chavurah took control of programming content and scheduling. Beyond the original scope of our proposal, a majority of chavurah families attended JRC’s Memorial Day weekend kallah, and continue to meet to plan future events and outreach.

We were disappointed that we failed to actualize our vision of chavurah blogs, online discussions and links to relevant articles. However, although the method was not what we envisioned, we were successful in our goal of creating a tightly-knit, committed community of school families that is more Jewishly knowledgeable and has the motivation and the tools to function independent of the school.
 
Based on what we observed in the chavurah and what the participants reported, JRC is going to launch a Meetup.com account so congregants can post suggestions for getting together at venues outside the synagogue. Meetup.com offers enough flexibility as to be useful to all demographics. Someone might suggest an activity that is size-limited or age-limited, such as a block of tickets to a children’s theatre; or it can be open-ended, such as a general invitation to any JRC members who want to congregate at a free concert in the park. We do not know yet if Meetup.com is the right platform, but we are optimistic that we are on the right track, balancing leadership and responsiveness.

Terri Ginsberg Bernsohn has been Director of JRC’s Religious School since June 2003, and a member of JRC since 1992.

This post is part of our special summer series highlighting stories shared by our 2011-12 Social Media Boot Camp for Educators Cohort. The SMBC for Educators is made possible through a generous grant from the Covenant Foundation.

JewDub.org: If You Build It.

I am generally not a huge fan of sports movies, but I will admit to being a total sucker for “Field of Dreams.” Something about the plot’s magical realism gets me every time. Time-traveling baseball players! James Earl Jones chuckling as he disappears into the cornfield! A chance to play catch with the younger incarnation of one’s father! If I happen across this movie while flipping channels, I am hooked until the last frame, happily dazed by the glowing headlights of the cars lined up to watch a game at the titular diamond.

The film’s tag line, “If you build it, they will come,” is the mantra that Kevin Costner’s character hears and repeats to himself. As the movie unfolds, he gradually comes to understand that constructing the baseball field will be enough to get fans out to watch a game. If he provides the physical space for the game to happen—and makes room in his heart to believe in this seemingly crazy scheme—then the crowds will show up. The movie’s conclusion vindicates the protagonist’s leap of faith and shows how taking a risk on an out-of-the-box idea can change your life.

But how often does life imitate art?

Building a new blog for the Stroum Jewish Studies Program this past year has been, in some ways, a test of the “If you build it…” philosophy. We have put time, energy, and resources into constructing an attractive site that will serve multiple constituencies. JewDub.org, in its ideal form, is an online space for University of Washington students, faculty, and community members to share conversations, research, and ideas. This project has required taking a leap of faith similar to the one taken by Costner’s character: we began building it based on a vision for innovative academic engagement, but weren’t at all sure whether the “crowd”—the various demographic groups we hoped to engage—would know how or why to show up.

As it has turned out, they ARE coming to JewDub.org, but in different ways than we had anticipated. Readers are interested in our content, but they are not yet participating in the lively discussions that we hoped our diverse blogs posts, videos, tweets, etc. would trigger; the comment spaces provided on the site remain painfully empty. In the baseball parlance of “Field of Dreams,” the fans are showing up to watch the game, but they haven’t crossed the line into the infield and become players as well.

As our team takes the summer to reflect on our progress and strategize for next year, we have a few key questions in mind. How can we create a culture wherein our readers are both consumers and producers of content on JewDub.org? How can we frame our rich material more effectively in order to stimulate discussion among our readers? What kinds of campus and community partnerships could create a more invested intergenerational audience?

For now we continue to build the site, excited about the possibilities ahead of us and knowing that with more work, outreach, and maybe a little movie magic, JewDub.org can become the dynamic online space that we envision.

Hannah Pressman is JewDub.org’s Content Manager and an Affiliate Faculty Member of the University of Washington’s Stroum Jewish Studies Program. Follow her on Twitter @jew_dub.

This post is part of our special summer series highlighting stories shared by our 2011-12 Social Media Boot Camp for Educators Cohort. The SMBC for Educators is made possible through a generous grant from the Covenant Foundation.

Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Insights from the Author

Thank you to Rabbi Hayim Herring for sharing his expertise with us on a webinar last week and on our online book group throughout the month of June, as we discuss his book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today.

Over 50 people registered for our webinar to learn from Hayim and discuss the concepts he shared and their application to their congregational settings.  We discussed the very tachlis details of who leads change and how, and big (and sometimes purposefully theoretical) questions like "will synagogues as we know them continue to exist in the next few decades"?

You can find the recording of the webinar and related resources shared during the webinar here.

Our online book group — held in a Facebook Group — continues, and we welcome you to join us!  Current conversations have been around testing and piloting new ideas, what has changed in synagogue life in the last 10 years, and how do we retain a sense of sacred community while still being respectful of the desire for individualism and self-directedness?  Come on over to the book group to respond, and/or to pose your own questions too!

Drum Roll Please*… Announcing Our New Cohort of Educators

Darim Online is thrilled to announce our 2012-2013 cohort for our Social Media Boot Camp for Educators. The Social Media Boot Camp for Educators is a year long experience for Jewish educators and Jewish educational organizations to help them advance their use of social media for marketing, communications, family engagement and curricular uses.  The program has been generously funded by the Covenant Foundation since 2008.

This cycle Darim received dozens of compelling applications from a wide range of organizations.  The cohort was selected based on organizational readiness, innovation in organizational structure and/or program, risk taking, and team formation, among other attributes.  Those chosen represent a diverse group of established and start up organizations seeking to mature their operations, advance their curriculum, and take important risks to move themselves and their communities forward.  Of note this year, the number of Jewish Day Schools applying for the program swelled significantly.

And now, please welcome the members of our 2012-13 Social Media Boot Camp for Jewish Educators:

Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicago, IL
www.bzaeds.org
Integrate social media learning platforms for student, educator, parent collaboration and engagement, with accompanying professional development.
Team Leader: Derek Gale, Director of Communications

Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas, TX
www.shearith.org
Convey Jewish education and positive identity through the model of the Mishkan by shifting the current learning model from grade based classroom to  learning centers, family education opportunities, celebration of Jewish holidays, retreats, religious services, trips, and more.
Team Leader: Dina Eliezer, School Director

Edah: Center for Jewish Living and Learning/Jewish Community Federation, Oakland, CA
www.edahcommunity.org
Outreach to unaffiliated or unusually affiliated Jews to engage them in Edah programming as well as in Jewish life more generally; and, tap the potential of online, at-home family learning opportunities.
Team Leader: Ariela Ronay-Jinich, Education Director

Graduate Center for Education, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, CA
http://maed.ajula.edu
Expand the Center’s reach as a convener of conversations and disseminator of ideas for educators and parents/lay community; incubate new learning models that effectively wed learning objectives with social media; and, recruit talent into the field of Jewish education.
Team Leader: Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., Dean, Graduate Center for Education

Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
www.jcdsri.org
Integrate 21st Century skills into teaching across the curriculum, into marketing and outreach, internal marketing, and into ways the school collaborates internally and externally not only with the greater Jewish community and agencies, but with the larger Providence civic community as well.
Team Leader: Shari Weinberger, Curriculum Coordinator

LanderGrinspoon Academy, The Solomon Schechter School of the Pioneer Valley, Northampton, MA
www.lgaschechter.org
Create a portal through which parents experience Jewish education that will result in increased parent engagement and enthusiasm with Judaism at home and in their own lives, that will in turn, support student learning and enthusiasm in classrooms; and, help parents feel more confident in their own Jewishness and inspire their participation with wider Jewish community organizations and activities.
Team Leader: Marla Shelasky, Director of Admissions & Marketing

Mensch Modules: Jewish Virtues for Living, A Collaborative Effort of The Women’s Jewish Learning Center and The Learning Shuk, Scottsdale, AZ
http://womenlearning.org
http://www.thelearningshuk.com
Create Do-It-Yourself educational modules for parents on character development in children. Drawing on texts from the Mussar tradition, these modules will offer digitally friendly but intellectually compelling content that will allow parents to consider topics of great importance to family life and child-rearing.
Team Leader: Rabbi Elana Kanter, Director of The Women’s Jewish Learning Center/Content Creator for Mensch Modules

Portland Jewish Academy, Portland, OR
www.portlandjewishacademy.org
Leverage social media to enhance student learning and engagement across the curriculum, and to embed digital citizenship and media literacy skills as a natural part of the instructional experience.
Team Leader: Sarah Blattner, Technology Integration Specialist

RAVSAK: Community Day School Network, New York, NY
www.ravsak.org
Further develop their work as a networked organization to better connect school leaders and enhance their abilities to learn together and from one another through peer-mentoring, website resources, online forums and face to face gatherings.
Team Leader: Idana Goldberg, Associate Executive Director

Temple Sinai, Denver, CO
http://sinaidenver.org
Create authentic connections with families and develop user-friendly ways to provide them with materials to supplement in-school experiences with parallel “home shul” experiences, both academically and socially.
Team Leader: Elyse Adlen, Preschool Director

In addition to the coaching and consulting offered to each of the chosen team, Darim will be presenting a series of webinars over the coming year with a focus on innovation and social media in Jewish education. These webinars are open to the entire field at no cost.  To be notified of the schedule as the series is confirmed, please register to join the Darim Online Learning Network at http://www.darimonline.org/register

*We promised you a drum roll… click away for your choice of audio accompaniment!

This Made My Day.

I just received this press release from Congregation Beth Elohim.  It filled me with such warmth and pride for this community’s leadership that I just had to share.  Congregation Beth Elohim recently won $250,000 in a social media driven online voting competition to help restore their historic building. 

Upon Winning a Quarter Million Dollars in Online Competition, Brooklyn Synagogue makes $15k donation to neighboring Church

Partnership between synagogue and church lead to unprecedented gift; Two  communities facing the burden of repairing collapsed ceilings find meaning in supporting each other; Community members respond with emotion and  joy
.
 

Brooklyn, NY – May 22, 2012 —
 
On the heels of winning one of only four Amex Partners in Preservation grants of $250,000 in New York City, Senior Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim announced today that Trustees of the Congregation have pledged $15,000 to Old First Reformed Church, their beloved neighbors and partners in building friendship and community in Park Slope.

The CBE gift to Old First is in recognition of its generous and continuing support for Congregation Beth Elohim over the years. Among many other gestures, Old First made its worship space available for several High Holiday services when CBEs Sanctuary ceiling collapsed. Old First also actively supported CBEs successful campaign to win the Amex Partners in Preservation grant. In an ironic twist, Old Firsts own ceiling collapsed earlier this year. Accordingly, CBEs gift to Old First will support their efforts to complete the necessary architectural studies for the preservation work its sanctuary demands.

In his announcement of this gift, Rabbi Bachman noted, “Each of our historic and sacred communities inhabit buildings made for a different era of religious life; and yet each of our communities understand the historical mandate to renew our relationships with our God and our community in every generation. As Simon the Righteous taught us in the Talmud, the world stands on three things: on Learning, on Worship, and on acts of Loving Kindness. May Congregation Beth Elohim and Old First Church thrive in these values and continue to bring goodness, kindness and peace to our world.”

Upon hearing the news, Reverend Dr. Daniel Meeter of Old First remarked that he was shocked, “Who does this kind of thing? So this is what love looks like, this hospitality, this generosity, this joining our lives together for better for worse."
 

How can we each be generous in our own ways today?

Push Yourself from Broadcast to Social

I coach many organizations on the social media, helping them to mature their practice and hopefully use these valuable tools to help achieve articulated goals.  What I notice — and notice a lot — is that moving from a broadcast mindset to a social one is hard.  Really hard.  I might spend a full hour brainstorming social content with a team from a congregation, and then notice their next 5 posts on Facebook are still about programs and posting links to articles they think folks should be reading.

Instead of talking with members of their community, they’re talking at them: read this, check out that.

While these types of posts are OK here and there, we need to figure out a different mode which will shift us from AT to WITH. In some cases it’s a very minor adjustment — phrasing your post as a question rather than a statement, for example.  But this ongoing trend points to a deeper cultural issue:  That organizaitons (and the institutional voice) are the center of a hub and spokes model. That the members of a "community" are puppy dogs sitting at the feet of institutions, begging for more information, more programs. 

In fact, in most cases the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Leaders with whom I work are thoughtful, delightful, smart people.  I’m not assigning blame here, but I am going to be the aggressive coach that will holler and holler to push you beyond your comfort zone, out of your status quo routine, and into a new place where you will strengthen your social muscles and start to see and feel and experience and contribute to the world in a new way.

Why You Need to Embrace Relationship Based Engagement

Guest post from Rabbi Aaron Spiegel. This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving.

Synagogue 3000 just released a report entitled “Reform and Conservative Congregations: Different Strengths, Different Challenges.” The report could just as easily been entitled something like “Synagogues are Fading Into Obscurity,” but that would be a little too provocative. The data is clear; the institution best positioned to provide the full richness of Jewish life is becoming irrelevant for most American Jews. More disturbing is that our research shows some 70% of young Jewish adults, those between the ages of 23 and 39, have no connection to the established Jewish community (synagogues, Federation, JCC’s, etc.). While many in the Jewish world talk about Jewish continuity and protecting the future of American Judaism, most of the proposed solutions have had little effect. The good news is we’ve also learned that this majority of young Jews are very interested in Judaism, just not the way we’re offering it.

While most in the congregational world talk about outreach, Synagogue 3000 learned that this moniker has a negative connotation. Outreach says, albeit subtly, “I’m reaching out to you so you can come to me and have what I want to offer you.” The community, particularly those young, single Jews who are our potential future are saying, “no thanks.” Instead of outreach Synagogue 3000 changed the conversation to engagement. Learning from the church world and community organizing, Synagogue 3000 created Next Dor (dor is Hebrew for generation) – an engagement program. Participating synagogues agree to dedicate a staffer, most often a rabbi, whose primary job is to meet young Jews where they are – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. These engagement workers are charged with finding young Jews, be they in bars, coffee houses, local gyms, etc., and finding ways of engaging them in conversation to create relationships. Relationships create trust, which creates other relationships, which creates opportunity for real engaging conversations about life and what Judaism has to offer. One of the key points is that this engagement and these relationships are l’shma, for their own sake. Synagogue membership is not the goal – connecting Jews to Judaism is.

While the goal is engaging young Jews in Judaism, several of the Next Dor partner synagogues are discovering tangible benefits. Next Dor D.C., a project of Temple Micah was one of the first adopters. Rabbi Danny Zemel, a proponent of this engagement model before Next Dor existed, knew that Temple Micah needed to engage this unaffiliated and disaffected population. As a Next Dor pilot synagogue, Temple Micah hired Rabbi Esther Lederman as their engagement worker. A big part of Esther’s job is having one-on-one meetings with young Jews, usually in coffee shops. Now in its fourth year, Next Dor D.C. has gone from one-on-one meetings to regular Shabbat dinners at Esther’s home to annual free High Holy Day services for young adults, led by Esther and Michelle Citrin. The results – young Jewish adults are joining Temple Micah.

Some have dubbed this approach “relational Judaism” which seems something of an oxymoron. Judaism is at its essence (at least in my opinion) all about relationships. Unfortunately, congregations have focused on other things like supporting infrastructure, b’nai mitzvah training, and programming. More than the first two, the focus on programming is the irrelevance linchpin. Rather than engaging Jews in what’s important in their lives, synagogues program based on anecdotal information. When numbers fall the default synagogue response is to seek better programming rather than forming relationships with members, finding out what’s really important in their lives, and being responsive to their needs. Interestingly enough, while Synagogue 3000 envisioned the relational approach targeting young Jewish adults, the Next Dor communities are discovering it works with everyone.

Is your synagogue willing to form relationships with people who might not become members? Is your rabbi really willing to “be known” by synagogue members? What are your biggest obstacles to moving from a program-based community to relationship-based? Relationships, it’s all about the relationships!

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is the CEO of Synagogue 3000. The report was the result of Synagogue 3000’s participation in FACT (Faith Communities Today), the largest and most comprehensive surveyor of faith communities in the United States.

 This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving that Darim Online is curating to advance the communal conversation about relationship focused Jewish communities.  Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting our research and this blog series.  Click here to see other related posts in the series.