You Shall Pursue

January 9, 2013

Building Community

Filed under: Jewish Communitty — Tags: , — marleyweiner @ 4:27 am

Every so often, the Jewish community will post an article like this, which sets my blood boiling all over again. Basically, the article discusses the miles that the Jewish community has to go in creating warm and inviting atmospheres that encourage people to want to come back. This is true. My old job used to run “community scans” in which we’d evaluate how welcoming and informative the community was to people who were interested in joining, or learning more about programming. The results were often quite bleak, with synagogues not returning calls, or websites with out of date information. We as a community need to do better.

Religion is about relationship building. We as Jews are a kehilaha community. The main reason that so many people join religious institutions is so that they have a group to celebrate and mourn with, a steady hand and a sense or ritualistic normalcy to help get them through the storms of life. If Jewish institutions are unable to provide that, why on earth do we expect people to invest in them?

When people walk through our doors, we should take a genuine interest in their lives, why they have come, and what they are looking for. Whether they come for one program and never again, or end up on our board, they should know how deeply we as a community care about serving them. The trick is, first we must actually care. Instead of focusing primarily on increasing membership, we should be looking to build authentic connections. We do this the same way we build connections with our friends. We return their calls. We ask after their family. We help celebrate their milestones. We introduce them to other people that we think they’d like. In this way, little by little, we can build an authentic Jewish community.


  1. The conversation from Facebook:

    Chanel Dubofsky CAPITALISM. do you have a bucket?

    Marley Weiner A world of aggggh. i don’t want to have to worry about funding; i want to just help each of my students, congregants, whoever to become their most brilliant Jewish self. But I feel like, if you are doing it right, people will sense that energy and become more willing to invest of their time, energy (and yes, money). The problem is that we’ve let money (and membership numbers) become the focus rather than individual stories and successes.

    Chanel Dubofsky also, people know when they’re being commodified. it doesn’t help.

    Comment by marleyweiner — January 9, 2013 @ 5:02 am

  2. Agree. If the first and primary thing you encounter when you go in the door is a demand for money, rather than or even to the exclusion of anything worth spending money on, you will get neither participants nor funds.

    Comment by Dan — January 9, 2013 @ 5:05 am

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