Welcoming New Members, and here’s what Temple B’nai Israel is all about:
A Cautionary Tale from Rabbi Ron Wolfson in his seminal book, Relational Judaism (2013)
Rabbi Wolfson recounts his visit to a congregation celebrating their 100th anniversary. The synagogue was a huge building, erected in the 1960’s. In the year 2000, the community had no mortgage, no debt, and a balanced budget. That said, there were warning signs: aging building, aging demography, retiring rabbi, declining membership. A decision was made to borrow one million dollars to invest in the future growth of the congregation. A high-priced rabbi was hired, who lasted a year and cost the congregation a half-million (housing included). Another half million was spent on programming, lots of programming, especially nationally renowned speakers to lure folks to Shabbat services. Lots of people showed up for these one-time events, enjoyed them, but never returned. It appears that nothing was done to engage congregants who showed up with other congregants and there was no follow-up with individual attendees. No surprise. After 10 years, the congregation was a million dollars in debt and membership went from 1500 to 300 households. I guess it’s all relative – 300 sounds like a ginormous number to me. Wolfson reports that by the time he visited, the leaders were kicking themselves asking him what they could do to invigorate their community. His response: Ít’s all about relationships,” meaning people will come to synagogues, and to other Jewish organizations for programs, but they will stay for relationships. He continues: “Programs are wonderful opportunities for community members to gather, to celebrate, and to learn. There is nothing wrong with programs, but if the program designers have given no thought to how the experience will offer the participants a deeper connection to each other, and with Judaism itself, then the program will likely have no lasting impact.” He concludes: “It’s not about programs. It’s not about marketing. It’s not about branding, labels, logos, clever titles, or smartphone apps. It’s not even about institutions. It’s about relationships. These relationships form the beating heart of the Jewish soul.”
The small and mighty Temple B’nai Israel has already lived out Rabbi Wolfson’s dream. We take pride in welcoming and sustaining lasting connections with all who enter our doors. We need look no farther than Karen Lukeman, who not only takes her position as TBI Membership Chair very seriously, but intuitively, compassionately, and enthusiastically seeks out and engages all who show an interest in our beloved congregation. It is my honor and privilege to call upon Karen to officially welcome and acknowledge our newest members.