The ONE FAMILY INITIATIVE at TEMPLE SHALOM
Relational Judaism, implemented as One Family at Temple Shalom, is a way of thinking, a way of doing things. It is who we strive to be. At Temple Shalom, we are in the midst of a transformation, a cultural shift, from programmatic/transactional thinking, attitudes, and behavior to a culture based on the relationship of one member to another, of member to Temple, of member to Torah and God. Believing in the value and sacredness of relationships, many aspects of life at Temple Shalom continue to be impacted. From the first contact of a newcomer to Temple Shalom through the years of being part of our Temple family, the experience of belonging is much more than a financial commitment. Our ultimate goal is to build a community of engaged congregants, a religious home in which the connection between Temple and congregant is centered on our member’s needs and what is important to them. Creating the systems that promote relationships and an environment that is conducive to connecting with others are tools for furthering this transformation.
Our One Family Initiative is based on the concepts developed by Dr. Ron Wolfson in his book Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community. One Family is the name by which our Temple Shalom process of transformation is known. Our One Family goals began with…
- Increasing connectivity and engagement among our members
- Building and develop relationships for current, new, and potential members
- Creating an intergenerational bridge
These goals do not mandate that our Team develop more programs, rather that we develop systems to assist our members in connecting and engaging and that we create an environment conducive to connectivity and engagement. New programs may well develop, and they have, but the focus of our One Family is creating that cultural shift. In order to accomplish this change, our One Family Team was formed. With about 60 members on the Team, we meet, brainstorm, consider options, determine next steps, and provide leadership and volunteers to bring our selections to fruition. We began working on these projects in winter, 2014, integrating One Family efforts with existing Temple committees to develop a number of systems and changes. The following initiatives have either been implemented or are in development (more information regarding each of these initiatives can be found at the end of this report):
- Name badges and cabinet now in our lobby.
- Home-based Shabbat Dinner structure.
- Additional new member engagement opportunities.
- Many Stories – a structure for one-on-one conversations and story sharing among congregants.
- Redesigned and redecorated Perman Library with conversational seating and coffee bar.
- Tribute Garden with seating
- Live and archived streaming video of services and events in our sanctuary.
- Affinity group for Empty Nesters (more affinity groups to come).
- A “hearing loop” in our sanctuary to assist the participation of congregants with hearing impairment.
- Hospitality Hosts – A system for welcoming and including members and visitors to our Temple home (currently being developed, to be implemented soon).
For more information about each of these systems, please click the One Family Initiative – System Descriptions & Changes in the side bar menu.
In addition, the increased contact among our members has led to:
- The development of our Tikkun Olam Council, a development and coordination body for social action work at Temple Shalom.
- The realization of the need for programming for our senior singles and interfaith families.
In order to ensure that connections are made and that there is follow-through with every effort to connect and engage congregants with each other, with Temple, with our staff, the new position of Engagement Coordinator and Concierge has been developed. This staff member is usually the first contact visitors have with the Temple. The Concierge is a friendly and welcoming presence, a provider of that all important wonderful first impression. The Concierge answers phones and greets people as they enter the building, and introduces visitors to other staff members and congregation leaders. In addition, the Concierge follows up on all membership inquiries, helps to orient new and potential members with the surrounding community, encourages new and existing members to make connections with other congregants, and contacts members on their birthdays and other simchas. By providing consistency in these initial contacts and relationship-building experiences, this staff member makes certain that the connections take place and that the desired connections don’t “fall through the cracks.” The presence of this Concierge position is reflective of the importance placed on Relational Judaism, our One Family Initiative, by the Temple Shalom leadership.
Development of Relational Judaism at Temple Shalom, our One Family process of change, is well under way. As we continue this process, we are also promoting the concept of Audacious Hospitality as presented by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of The Union for Reform Judaism. The purpose of Audacious Hospitality is “to eliminate the barriers that have prevented people from finding their place in Judaism.” It is “about more than being a lovely host. It is being ‘an organization that thinks outside the box’ in order to allow people to participate and feel they are making a difference.” Audacious Hospitality is an environment that includes much of what we are endeavoring to create…
- A warm welcome to our Temple home.
- Reaching beyond active Temple members to less involved members and the unaffiliated, promoting engagement and connection.
- Respect for clergy, staff, and each other.
- Openness to new ideas and doing things in new ways.
Becoming a model of Relational Judaism and an example of Audacious Hospitality is a process, evolving over time, with purpose, with planning, with persistence. It requires support of leadership, involvement of membership, and clarity of vision. As we move forward with this process of cultural change, we welcome the participation of everyone who wants to be (more) involved in this sacred community.
Tussy and Neil Shnider Bobbie Katz
Co-Chairs, One Family Team