Determining Your Communal DNA

What is a synagogue? A congregation? A community?

We are more than a nonprofit organization, or a local center, or a collection of people who share certain practices or get together for holidays. It feels significant to me that words like “congregation” and “community” are grammatically singular but inherently refer to a multiplicity. The duality of meaning here is so critical for how we lead, congregate, and self-identify.

A rhizome is an organism that shares DNA across what appears to be a big, diverse group of organisms. Bamboo is a great example of this: What appears to be a forest of bamboo is actually one organism, with a shared root system. The organism is resilient, strong, and sustainable because even if the majority of it was destroyed, the DNA lives on.

Our congregations should function in a similar way. Together, we establish the culture of a community (let’s call it the communal DNA) which infuses everything we do, from the design of the fliers, to the tone of the announcements made from the bimah, to the thoughtfulness with which we treat each other.

Oftentimes, we talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. We repeat (in announcements, on our websites, etc.) that we are “warm and welcoming,” but how does that really get coded in our DNA? How does this value express itself in every attribute of our community, inside the building and outside, from staff and members, through programs and relationships? Is our being welcoming our saying, “We’re glad you walked in the door”? Or is it actually saying, “We’d like to help you find your place here, so I want to know what’s important to you. And can I introduce you to some people who share your interests?”

Today we are living in a networked, connected world, where relationships trump programs, where participation trumps attendance, and where authenticity and trustworthiness trump everything. Our challenge, then, is not only to clarify our communal DNA but to have it expressed throughout every pore of our community, at all times.

One of the most effective ways that we can infuse our communities with this DNA is through effective communications. What does your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, or Pinterest board say about your community, your values, and your DNA? Do the people who manage these channels – as well as the people who manage your print newsletter, weekly emails, fliers, and in-person announcements – all operate from the same core DNA of the community? How about greeters and ushers and the person who answers the phone?

In the Social Media Policy Workbook published this fall (free download of the PDF is available here), we offer 10 worksheets to help you think through the various opportunities (and challenges) of effectively using communications to build, support and manage your communal DNA. The very first worksheet is about values because everything grows from there – the roots, the stalks, and the leaves.

What are the essential communal values at your synagogue? How are they expressed by every member of your community? Where could you be doing a better job?

 

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. 

 

This post is also cross posted on the URJ blog.

Getting to Know You

It's the start of a new Religious School year and you want to do something to start the year with a bang. It would be good to find a way to help parents and children meet the teachers right away. And it's always nice to use new technology to show that the synagogue is moving with the times. These were some of the aims as we embarked on a new project at The Community Synagogue.

It was on the Darim Social Media Success Stories webinar series that I saw the way that Rabbi Rebecca Milder had used social media and QR codes for displaying the work of their students. It got me thinking about the ways that we could use QR codes in our own synagogue community.

The idea was to record videos of all of our teachers with a welcome message to the new students introducing themselves and sharing their excitement for the forthcoming school year. These videos would be available through our website. But the primary way in which we intended to share them was via posters in the lobby of the synagogue, with QR codes linking to all of the videos.

We registered with www.qrstuff.com as I had seen them recommended by Rabbi David Gerber on another Darim webinar. For a small fee this service provided us with analytics for each code we created and also gave us the potential to subsequently change the web page to which the QR Code was linked.

Next came the videos. Teachers who were technologically able filmed their own and the rest we recorded using iPhones. While I am sure we could have made better quality recordings with a more sophisticated camera, for the short 20-30 second clips the iPhone was sufficient. All of the clips were uploaded to YouTube and filed as 'unlisted' so that there was some degree of privacy. We then embedded all of the videos onto individual pages on our website, so that the QR codes would direct people to our website rather than YouTube.

By the first day of Religious School we had 31 videos, all but one of our teachers was happy to be a part of the project. Each teacher had their own section on a poster which included their picture, the classes they were teaching and the QR code to watch their video. These were mounted together onto 6 poster boards and displayed in the synagogue lobby as people made their way into the sanctuary for the opening of school. We also printed out a few sheets with information on how to use QR codes and to download a QR scanner.

 

There was one line to register new students and there was another line to scan the codes and watch the welcome videos, with a real sense of excitement about the new display. It was great to watch as parents and children met their teachers 'virtually' before meeting in person later that morning.

We've continued to display the boards in the lobby to give people further opportunities to scan the codes and watch the videos. We have had well over 100 scans of the QR codes by parents and children of the synagogue, and it's been a great way for the community to get to know one another.

Blowing up the Bima: Reinventing the Rabbi Congregant Relationship

Part of the Connected Congregations series.

1983. The author was in Atlanta, GA serving in his first full time Rabbi / Jewish Educator position. As part of a synagogue renovation project, the synagogue’s school building (which once served as the state’s Ku Klux Klan headquarters!) was being restored after having been abandoned years earlier. The synagogue had been founded in the city of Atlanta. In 1946, it followed the move of Jews to suburbia. Consistent with the architecture of the time, the bima was an elevated stage several feet above congregant seating and positioned several yards forward from the front row of seating. The bima was illuminated by several spotlights, which easily raised the temperature to 10 degrees higher than that in the seats below.

During the renovation project, the senior rabbi and I questioned whether the bima could be moved closer to the congregants, or even to a location that would be nearer to the center of the seating, to be more consistent with an increasingly participatory approach. The answer given by the architect was that, to do so, “you would have to dynamite the bima, since it was built in solid concrete.”

Fast forward to 2007. I was no longer the Jewish educator embarking on a new career, but now sat with an energetic, bright Jewish educator embarking on her career. As I finished telling her the above story, she stopped me and said, “That’s it! To be successful in this work today, we have to blow up the bima!”

Today’s American synagogue model grew up in the post World War II era. The architecture of synagogues moved the attention from the center of the synagogue to the front, reflecting the idea that the “action” was going to take place on a stage, with paid lead actors (rabbi, cantor) performing from in front of and above the congregation, who would be participants, not leaders.

At the same time, the economic model of the synagogue was built on membership dues, which in turn relied on Bar/Bat Mitzvah, which in turn relied on synagogue “religious schools” to provide the financial means of keeping synagogues going (which also devalued both the educational program and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah).

Fast forward to 2012, and the (Jewish) world has changed, and the relationship of Rabbi to Community Member has changed with it. Today, only a fraction of Jews look to their rabbi as a sole authority on their spiritual or religious life and practice.

I propose that the model for the Rabbi / Community Member relationship must change to that of a Coach / Client relationship. In that relationship, the rabbi still is the scholar, but his/her role is not to try to impose one particular type of Jewish practice, as much as to set out options for people, and then empower them to set their Jewish life paths.

To make that happen, a few things need to occur:

  • Rabbinic training needs to continue a move that has already progressed away from growing rabbis as authority figures and towards growing rabbis as coaches or spiritual mentors. Conversations between rabbis and community members sound more like “here are some possibilities that Judaism provides for your life” rather than “this is what Judaism demands of you”.
  • Synagogue services must loosen up and move the “action” back to the Jews in the Pews rather than on the frontal bima. Among the ways to make that happen are interactive text studies during services, Storahtelling type theatre to supplement Torah reading, even Tweetups during services for those congregations that permit use of technology on Shabbat.
  • We need to worry less about the rules of the service and more about how services help people to move spiritually. Fundraisers talk about “move management” as donors are developed. We need “move management” for Jews on their spiritual journeys. Judaism is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Rabbis need to have discussions (and not merely sermons) that say “you’ve added X to your life; How do you think Y would work as a next step towards deepening your spiritual journey?”
  • Congregations and their rabbis need to not be limited by physical walls or by the walls of membership. There is an economic challenge to opening the doors, and some very creative communities are already trying to figure out how to keep congregations viable as these changes occur. But as the Jewish world has seen from examples such as Sukkah City and Dawn. To use Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ expression, we must break down the synagogue’s walls.
  • Community members and rabbis need to talk to one another. It’s no longer good enough to have families on membership lists that rabbis only talk to on holidays or when there is a life cycle event. Rabbis need to have conversations with each family or individual during the year that say “How can I or Judaism be of service to you in your life?” And the meetings don’t have to be in the “rabbi’s study”. They can be at Starbucks or over a corned beef sandwich at a deli [that’s right, we like a good corned beef sandwich, too].

How will your rabbis and your community members join in leading change?

Rabbi Arnold D. Samlan, MSW, is Founder and Owner of Jewish Connectivity. Arnie is an innovative and creative Jewish educational leader and rabbi. His programs and teachings have powerfully impacted Jewish learners and professionals across the country. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Long Island, NY. Arnie blogs as The Notorious R.A.V., and has a Twitter feed with over 700 followers, @jewishconnectiv. You can learn more about him and read recommendations on LinkedIn.

 

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. 

Tilling the Soil: An Interview with Allison Fine

I've been following Allison Fine's work for years, and have so enjoyed how our paths have crossed in the Jewish community in recent years.  Allison is the author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit.  Recently, Allison has been serving as the president of the board at her synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York. This position has given Allison the opportunity to put her theory into practice, and to examine intimately the potential and challenges of synagogues as networked nonprofit.

As part of our blog carnival on Connected Congregations, Allison has written a very thoughtful case study of her work at Temple Beth Abrahram, exploring what it has taken to lay the groundwork for becoming a networked nonprofit. You can download it here. I had a chance to ask her some questions about it.

1)  Why did you write this case study?

The role of temple president is enormously time-consuming and difficult. It's a lot like being the president of a local school board with a lot of constituents, technical issues to wrestle with and a fast changing environment. Except that public schools aren't going out of business and synagogues are struggling to stay in business. I wanted to provide a snapshot of my experiences wrestling with the hard questions of what synagogues will look like ten and twenty years from now within the real and difficult demographic, generational and economic shifts that are threatening our survival. How do we stay relevant and meaningful in the lives of our congregants? How do we meet our financial commitments when the dues model is not sustainable? How do we do what we do best and network the rest?

As the case study outlines, just positioning ourselves to wrestle with these questions has taken up much of my tenure as president. The key lessons so far for me is that when we have the courage to look at our ecosystem through a lens of abundance (people want to support us even if it's not at what we now have as full dues) rather than scarcity (people want to game our dues system) good things can happen, like raising over a million dollars to renovate our sanctuary this past summer for the first time in over sixty years. In the future, we are likely to combine programs with other synagogues and our local JCC over the next few years, we are likely to come up with a more flexible donation system that allows people to stay connected to us after their kids are bar mitzvahed, and we are likely to continue to exist into our twelfth decade, but we will be put together differently. Capturing the beginning of that journey to share with others on the same road is why I wrote the case study.

2)  You co-authored the book, The Networked Nonprofit, and clearly have thought a lot about what that means.  What's your vision for how synagogues can and should be networked nonprofits?

The biggest challenge for synagogues in this century is undoing the membership model from the last century. There are too many choices for ways to be Jewish today for temples to say that there is only one right way to be a part of our community. Synagogues need to move away from transactions (how many tickets to high holidays have we sold?) and have an unrelenting focus on relationship and community building.  We need to strengthen the social ties between congregants, not just between members and the synagogue, and engage in meaningful conversations with them on land and online. Synagogues need to be a part of our lives, not an addition to our lives.

3)  In your case study, you talk about how we need to confront congregational culture as a starting point. "… the default settings … had to change because they did not reflect the reality of the congregation or the spirit of a networked organization. And the change had to begin in the boardroom."  Why does the board need to own the responsibility for culture change, and what kind of leader is needed to make that happen?

Boards and clergy are the culture setters in synagogues. Together they determine the values that an organization lives by, which in turn drives the processes. In my case study, this manifested itself in how we treated people asking for financial relief from dues. Are they considered slackers or community members who need our love and care? That determination will create procedures, forms, approaches that make people feel a certain way. The hard work for organizations is identifying and challenging their own assumptions (often old ones that haven't been aired out in a while) about why and how we do what we do to make sure that the systems and procedures that emerge downstream reflect our values.

4) How do you define community in a networked congregation that is different from the traditional approach to synagogue life?

The dues structure itself is at the heart of a lot of the distance congregants feel from their synagogues. It is a bill that people are expected to pay, unless they're struggling and then they have to go through the humiliating process of asking for relief. Everyone should pay their fair share, but they should be treated as adults who can decide for themselves what that amount is, and if synagogues can't make the case that they provide value, that their continued existence is important and relevant to the lives of their congregants, well, then they won't survive. But I think we will, we just have to flex some communication and relationship muscles we've never had to exercise before.

5) What congregations (or other organizations) and/or leaders have you looked to for inspiration and support as you've been pioneering this new approach to congregational life?  What have you learned from them that's been applicable to your synagogue?

As we wrote in the Networked Nonprofit, I found the most exciting aspect of this moment in time is that traditional organizations across issues areas, service organizations and advocacy groups, are remaking themselves as social networks. They are taking down the walls and engaging with their communities, building relationships rather than turning the turnstiles of transactions. And synagogues and Jewish day schools are just beginning this process. The most important part of this journey for traditional organizations is for leadership to have the courage to make themselves uncomfortable by working different, more transparently, learning more about what their community wants from them, engaging them as full partners in problem solving, treating them as smart, generous people not names in a database. It's a very exciting time!

6)  You've clearly made a lot of progress during your tenure as board chair.  What does the congregation need next to continue this trajectory?

I'm not sure where we will be in a year much less three to five years, but I think we've made some progress in changing the relationship between the institution and our membership. The three most important things I see us doing in the future are:

  1. Providing training and support for new leaders to serve on the board and on our task forces.
  2. Unhooking ourselves from the assumption that the number of members is the most important measure of our success.
  3. And remembering to have fun together!

You can download and read Allison's full case study here.

 

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. 

 

Case Study: The Networked Nonprofit: A Prequel (Temple Beth Abraham)

Editor's note: Allison is the author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit.  Recently, Allison has been serving as the president of the board at her synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York. This position has given Allison the opportunity to put her theory into practice, and to examine intimately the potential and challenges of synagogues as networked nonprofit.

As part of our blog carnival on Connected Congregations, Allison has written a very thoughtful case study of her work at Temple Beth Abrahram, exploring what it has taken to lay the groundwork for becoming a networked nonprofit.  The opening paragraphs are below.

Please download the 12 page case study here.

Two summers ago my worlds collided. A book I co-authored with Beth Kanter, The Networked Nonprofit, was published and at the same time I became president of my synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, NY.

I was more prepared for the book launch than the temple presidency. I’ve written books before and the process is pretty much the same each time. You spend months and months writing, then go out and talk to anyone who will listen to your brilliant ideas and phrases. Hopefully people say and write nice things about the book, three people buy it (including your mother) and then you go home.

I was fully unprepared to step into the role of president of a synagogue. While I had fifteen years experience in nonprofit management and more recently researching and writing about the power of social media to reshape organizations and communities, synagogue culture was a mystery to me. My presidency coincided with the Great Recession and significant decline in the number of Jews moving into our area. In the spirit of never wasting a good crisis, lay leadership, clergy and the congregation writ large have given me great latitude for experimentation for which I am enormously grateful. The following reflections as temple president are not intended as a victory lap, we are far from stabilizing, much less growing our membership. Rather it is an opportunity to share what I have learned in the hopes that others can build and improve on them and share their experiences as well.

My efforts at Temple Beth Abraham were based on the assumptions that form the basis of The Networked Nonprofit. Networked Nonprofits are:

“…easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out. They engage people to shape and share their work in order to raise awareness of social issues, organize communities to provide services or advocate for legislation. In the long run, they are helping to make the world a safer, fairer, healthier place to live.”

See link below to download the full case study.

Vision and Data: Essential Building Blocks for Successful Synagogue Change

UJA Federation of New York has recently made investments in helping local congregations collect and analyze data in order to make strategic, data-driven decisions about their work and their future.  The results of the project have been extraordinary, ranging from leaders learning how they need to collect different kinds of data, to learning how to use databases for more than contact management, as well as how they can shape their programs and culture to build a sustainable future.

Following this important work, which was lead by Measuring Success, SYNERGY at UJA Federation of New York has released a very informative and readable report, which can be downloaded for free on their website.  It's worth downloading, and sharing with your synagogue staff and board members.  It's illuminating, and accessible.

The congregations in the project helped leaders examine their assumptions not based on anecdotal evidence or gut reactions, but with hard data.  In many cases, the difference was profound.

“We had tried social programming in the past but never got the turnout we hoped for, which led us to conclude (wrongly) that people did not want to make social connections through the Religious School. Measuring Success helped us develop a targeted follow-up survey to probe deeper about social connections. That led to an “aha moment” when we learned that people do want to make social connections, they just do not want us to add new events to their calendars. When we realized that, we took steps to build socializing and community-building into existing events," reported Barri Waltcher, Vice President and Chair of Religious School Committee, Temple Shaaray Tefila.

“Our congregation’s leadership engages in ongoing discussions regarding how to best spend our resources to fulfill our mission. I now understand that we have been acting in a bubble, often divorced from the needs, desires, and perspective of our membership," shared Rabbi Michael White from Temple Sinai of Roslyn Heights.  They now have greater focus on where they should be making investments to achieve their goals, and ultimately strengthen their financial sustainability too.

On October 17, 2012 leaders from congregations involved in the Sustainable Synagogue Business Models program will be sharing insights from their experience.  Learn more about the lunchtime webinar (12pm-1pm eastern) and sign up here.

Adventures in Learning: Matan and Darim Go Viral

Over the past six months Matan, founded 12 years ago, launched the inaugural Matan Institutes for Jewish Educators.  In March, 18 Education Directors came together for two days of intense learning related to Jewish special education; in August, 40 congregational school teachers spent one day with Matan learning how to make their classrooms accessible to all learners. 

What we love about special education is that in actuality, it is simply really good education.  Special educators pay close attention to the learning styles of each of their students – whether their preferences are visual, oral, tactile or kinesthetic.  These teachers plan their lessons making sure there are elements within that will reach every type of student.  In the 21st century classroom, technology is a remarkable tool that helps students access information in the ways that work best for them, often bridging the divide between different types of learners.

And so, when Matan was accepted into Darim’s Boot Camp for Jewish Educators, we saw a remarkable opportunity to combine the best of what special education and technology have to offer.  We made a conscious decision to focus our time with Darim on the educators that we train, with a particular eye towards the launch of The Matan Institutes.  In so doing, we have had the unique opportunity to model the use of technology with educators looking to increase their skill set for engaging children with special needs, thereby impacting over 8,000 congregational school students across the country.  In “social media speak”, Darim and Matan went viral.

Matan modeled various techniques we learned from Darim, and we will continue to do so with future cohorts of educators.  Among the most well-received: a thumb-drive for participants containing every presentation, every handout and lists of relevant resources (in addition to printed and screen-projected documents, because every adult also learns differently from one another); the use of Poll Everywhere (never before seen by Matan’s participants and a great way to engage tweens and teens in the classroom); and tweets that highlighted the messages of our nationally-renowned speakers with a much wider online audience.

Perhaps most importantly, we have the opportunity to continue working with these educators through webinars (a skillset learned from Darim), thereby making Matan the first Jewish Special Education organization that provides ongoing support and mentoring to the educators we train.  Having the ability to move beyond “one off” professional development sessions provides Matan with the opportunity to truly change the landscape of how children with special needs are included in Jewish education.  Thank you, Covenant Foundation! Thank you, Darim!

Meredith Englander Polsky is the Director of Training and Advocacy at Matan, and, along with Orlee Krass, Matan's Director of Education, participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, which is generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.

Your List is Not a Network

Part of the Connected Congregations series

Point of clarification: your list is not a network.

I sometimes hear organizations talking about the number of people they have involved with their work – their network – and then reference the people who have signed up to receive their email updates. That’s great! It’s wonderful that so many people are interested enough in your work and the difference that you’re making that they signed up to get your communications. That can be really important and powerful. It’s just not (necessarily) a network.

Below is a graphic outlining the qualities that make a list a list, and a network a network. Take a look, and think of it as a checklist. Where are you working with lists, and where with networks? What points could you focus on to make your efforts more networked?

Some definitions for the above chart:

Node: A node, or vertex, is any point in a network. It could be a person, place (like a city), or thing (like a computer).

Link: A link, or edge, is what connects two nodes. If the nodes are cities, the links may be something tangible like a highway system. If the nodes are people, the links may be more ethereal, like friendship, family, or professional relationships.

Prosume: This is a word that comes out of the software development world; it is a combination of “produce” and “consume.” For more on the Jewish prosumer, check out this post.

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.