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A Visionary Congregation

One of my favorite books on leadership is entitled: Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary by Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Ari Y. Kelman. Alban Institute, 2010. And as your rabbi and spiritual leader, I aspire for us to be a visionary congregation. I have outlined below what such a congregation looks like.

Characteristics of the Visionary Congregation.

Sacred Purpose: Congregation guided by pervasive, shared vision that infuses all aspects of synagogue life, grounded in serious Jewish values (middot), especially kedushah (holiness) which lifts the community beyond simply a social club.

Holistic Ethos: All congregational "parts" are related to each other and make a more meaningful whole. Holistic congregations break down the "silos" that separate congregational life. Ritual, learning, caring, social action, and community-building appear in several areas of communal functioning, all in well-integrated ways. Volunteer and professional leadership function cooperatively. Boundaries within and around the community are more porous and fluid. There is an "intrapreneurial" spirit between the congregation and its allied institutions, a commitment to shared efforts and resources.

Participatory Culture: Congregants of all ages, lay leaders, and professionals engage in the work of building and sustaining sacred community.

Meaningful Engagement: The congregation achieves significant engagement through repeated experiences that inspire and give Jewish purpose to our lives.

The Spirit of Innovation: The congregation is not just a place that conserves tradition but also propels an ongoing search for diversity and alternatives, embraces risk and tolerates failure. An innovative congregation has the ability to address and overcome resistance to change and a confidence to abandon less functional ways of doing things.

Reflective Leadership and Governance: Reflective congregations carefully examine competing realities, seeking creative strategies and viable alternatives. They exercise commitment to overarching purpose, attention to relationships, mastery of detail, planful approaches to change. And, they practice indomitable spirit as they seek to overcome barriers to excellence.

Practically speaking, our Jewish community won't survive if we can't fulfill basic functions, like paying our bills or endowing our future. However, if our goal is simply to survive than we may never truly thrive--because our greatness commands foresight, risk and creativity, the stuff of vision--none of which flourishes in an overly functional, change-averse environment. We must reach beyond mere function, opening our eyes to our greater potential. Let's get to work. I need your help. I am happy to sit down with you and explore the possibilities together.

Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good.

Zei gezunt (Be well):


Rabbi Craig Marantz

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