This weeks two voices deals with the issue of attracting new congregants to shul, beyond just the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Adam Stone says..
Targeting passionate and influential members and giving them responsibility is the key.
Let them take charge and try something new. Change is not a bad thing; if members are passionate, they will succeed! The key is to give members what they want – so just ask them! When we spoke to our new converts, they said they wanted a trip to Poland trip – so this month we are taking a group of them to see Auschwitz.
A new mum wanted to start a baby group – and now we have a free monthly gathering for the Hendon Reform Synagogue babies to enjoy themselves with new equipment and for the parents to enjoy free pizza. Our regular weekly volunteer in the office was passionate about joining the Homeless Action in Barnet night shelter programme at HRS, and after a phenomenal success earlier on in the year, we are now planning to run the programme again.
New ideas from the pipeline due to start this month are our Sunday-morning football group for toddlers and a comfy chill-out area serving tea, coffee and cake before a Shabbat service.
Everyone knows Jews love to talk and that the power wielded by a passionate Jew is very contagious – so visit our website now and get chatting to your friends and family!
• Adam Stone is community & operations manager at Hendon Reform Synagogue
Jon Freedman says..
There is no time like the present. The first opportunity to attract people to our community happened when they walked through the door on Rosh Hashanah. What did they encounter? Were they welcomed warmly?
Were they shown that they have a place in this community? Did they have an opportunity to participate? Every single time a person sets foot in a synagogue, it is an opportunity to show what that community is about.
A community should have a purpose, a mission. People should understand how their participation in a community will have a positive impact on themselves, and on the wider world. It is the synagogue’s job to listen to the people who come through its doors, understand what motivated them, and help them find their place as active participants, invested in the growth and development of the community.
Of course a synagogue must provide meaningful prayer and musical experiences, enriching educational and social programmes, pastoral care, and opportunities for members to develop and grow into leaders. But all this must be seen as work towards achieving the thing at the heart of every strong community – meaningful relationships with other members. It is these, above anything else, that will keep people coming back for more.
• Jon Freedman is director of community engagement at Finchley Reform Synagogue
More from progressive Judaism: