Happy New (secular) Year all. I am excited to jump in to 2018 and know we have a lot of wonderful things in store. As I write this, I am energized, having come back from the URJ Biennial meeting, right here at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. For those of you that attend conferences for work or for some of your other non-profit or social interests, I am pretty sure that nothing compares to a Friday night service followed by a song session along with 5,500 other Reform Jews. Wow! My family came in for the evening and my kids (one Eisner camper and one soon-to-be 6 points SciTech kid) both had camp badges on and bumped into camp staff. It was amazing to see my older son, who had found two former counselors, stand with them and bounce sky high while singing along with some of the greatest songleaders in our movement. He is definitely a confident Jew — more on that later.
Congregation B’nai Shalom had quite the contingent, with sixteen attending the conference and another thirty-six joining on Friday night. That included a few NFTY kids and they were, of course, the most spirited of the entire bunch in Hynes.
Of course, there were sessions that were informational and some that were inspirational and some that left me madly scribbling notes on things to do with the team, our lay leadership, and our volunteer corps. I am thinking about the questions we need to be asking our members when we want to know what they are looking for from Congregation B’nai Shalom — and some of those stemmed from a lively discussion of engaging families, engaging baby boomers, and engaging both together.
My favorite session of the program — and not just because it was given by a woman with whom I went to Jewish summer camp — left me with a new phrase to use when I am thinking about how we engage our youth. We want them to be “confident and competent Jews.” There were sessions on fundraising and on how to fill your volunteer pipeline — both of which I’ll be tapping into in the coming months. If you haven’t yet seen this video, it’s a great one. https://vimeo.com/177462266.
Kudos to CBS member Sarah Kipp whose work as a JewV’Nation fellow was recognized at a reception celebrating the Audacious Hospitality Innovators and Trailblazers within our movement. Through this, Sarah is developing a place to hear the stories of transgender and gender-nonconforming Jews. You can see more at www.transjewish.org. Sarah is, in my opinion, filling a gap by helping tell stories for those who need to see that they are a part of and welcomed within our community.
Audacious hospitality rang true through many of the discussions. We know that in the Central Massachusetts community, we welcome people into our synagogue doors of many backgrounds — Reform to Orthodox Jews; those born Jewish; those who have chosen Judaism; those choosing to raise Jewish children; Bostonians, New Yorkers, and even a Texan or two. We are a diverse community. Audacious hospitality means that we welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life. Audacious hospitality means we listen to what is important across all of the segments of our congregation and work to meet our community where they are — whether they are new parents, empty nesters, single, LGBTQ, interfaith, etc. We continue to expand our programming to meet our members where they want to be — most recently with our CBS Social Clubs. I will be asking our board to think about how else we need to be providing our congregants with what they need to feel like they are a welcome part of the community. Have a thought to share? An example of Audacious hospitality to embrace? I want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.