Rabbi's Message: May 2015

Rachel Gurevitz
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

Asking the Right Questions

No, this isn't my Pesach column a month late. While asking questions are an important part of the Seder ritual, they are also an important part of every facet of Jewish life. Inspired by the writing of Clay Christensen on Disruptive Innovation, the key question, 'What job does it do?' applies to Jewish faith life and our synagogue congregations as much as it applies to any other facet of our lives. For many decades, synagogue life has been defined somewhat functionally we provide a school, a place to worship, and a place for community gatherings, for example. The institution has a certain kind of structure by which groups of people are organized to run and manage it, and another kind of structure is in place to fund these functions, and the human resources and the physical structures required to fulfill these functions.

When we ask the question 'What job does it do?' today, we are not asking a solely functional question. We are asking what needs do these organized forms of religious community fulfill for our members. We are asking what meaning is derived from participating in congregational life. Asking these kinds of questions can generate the kinds of change that can best enable Congregation B'nai Shalom to continue to serve the needs of those who identify with the Jewish people in our part of Central Massachusetts.

There are a number of projects that have been taking place and are continuing to develop that are inspired by these kinds of questions. One of the best ways for you to hear about what has been happening and what lies ahead is to join us either at the Volunteer Recognition Breakfast and Annual Meeting, from 9-10.30 a.m. on Sunday, May 3rd or at the CBS 21 update meetings being held the same morning (one in the early session and one in the late session) to learn about the new program we are launching for our K-6 students next year.

The work that Rabbi Eiduson and his task force have done over the past 1.5 years is a great example of what happens when you begin with questions that try to get at the heart of 'What job does it do?' for our families with children. We heard that there was high satisfaction with our Religious School. We've been doing a good job in a fairly traditional way. But we learned that creating authentic community for our youth, and offering learning that could be applied to C21st living were core needs that parents hoped that our school could meet. These needs have provided the driving force behind the kinds of changes that we are putting into place in our new K-6 'Eitz Chayyim' program. The kinds of activities that our students will do together, the integration of youth groups, social action, project-based learning, and carefully thought-through opportunities for parents and children to participate in our community together, are examples of ways that make us better able to create a Religious school that goes from good to great.

Likewise, our 'Sustaining our Vision' task force has been laying the groundwork this year to engage our congregational membership in a series of conversations next year that will seek to draw on our community's insights on the job that our congregation does or could do for its members. Like our school, we've been receiving positive feedback from our membership and our congregation has seen a steady increase in size over these past three years. But now we seek to go from good to great and position ourselves as the best kind of Jewish community that we can be, with ways of organizing ourselves and funding ourselves that are in alignment with that vision.

Let me take this opportunity to say how proud I am to be part of a great professional team, working alongside and in partnership with dedicated, caring, and forward-thinking lay leadership. I am looking forward to continuing the journey with you all.

Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

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