What a thrill it was to come back to the Temple after my Sabbatical and find the renovations complete! By now, we have all enjoyed the fresh look, the ease of accessibility, the coolness of the sanctuary on a hot and humid day, an excellent new sound system, and more. What an incredible accomplishment! We can all be proud our small community coming together to succeed at such a monumental task. We are very grateful to the many volunteers who worked tirelessly for years to make this dream a reality and to our long list of generous donors who dug deep to bring this project to fruition.
Now our work moves in a new direction–to fill our beautifully revitalized synagogue with people and programming. The wisdom of the Pirke Avot says it all:
“Al tistakeil b’kankan, eilah, b’mah sheyesh bo.” Look not at the jug, but rather what is in it.” (Pirkei Avot 4:20)
Indeed, what will have been the point of this extensive and expensive renovation project if only a small group of loyalists does the work and comes to the services and programs that we offer? Having been away and returned at the end of the summer, I have been struck more than ever with the realization that we have a great variety of programming (see Upcoming Classes and Programs), but it seems to primarily attract a small group of enthusiastic people who are “in” for whatever goes on at Beth Hillel. There are many whom we are not reaching.
What can we do to reach those who once were active, but have fallen away? Is there something to bring them back in? Are you one of those members? Can you help us understand why you have left and what might bring you back to regular involvement in our community? Can we all work to contact folks we have not seen recently and invite them to return?
How can we reach out to those who are new to encourage them to integrate and become involved in the community? It is hard to come to a new community and find your way. Even if someone is interested in something we offer here, it may feel awkward coming to an event where everyone seems to already know each other. Surely we can do a better job of drawing in our newcomers and finding out what would make our community their community as well.
And what avenues can we explore for more actively seeking out and bringing in new members? Do you ever suggest to your Jewish friends or co-workers, interfaith couples you know, spiritual seekers you encounter, or relatives who are unaffiliated that they join you at an event? Do you talk to them about what you find meaningful about being part of a congregation?
These are questions that we must begin to address more seriously and energetically than ever before. We have invested in our historic building and made it appealing and welcoming as a “House for all People,” but now we need to be sure that there are a great variety of “people” in the “house;” to turn our attention from the “kankan,” the jug, to “mah sheyesh bo,” to what is inside. If we could succeed at the “impossible dream” of raising $1.5 million and renewing a 90 year old building, surely this next project is within our grasp as well.
Please join us as we turn our attention to this endeavor in the coming months. We will be looking for your wisdom, your ideas, and your input!
Rabbi Dena A. Feingold
Editor’s Note: This piece is in the form of a post. As you can see comments are invited. Please give us your thoughts. We do monitor comments and will take down any comments that are not in keeping with our community standards. Thanks for contributing. J.L.