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Special Project: CHIdush

On Sunday morning, we had an important gathering of religious school parents, and what follows here are my opening remarks.

Years ago, during my year at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles, I learned about change. "Change is our friend," my teachers would say. "But change is slow."

Experience has taught me change is indeed our friend, and change is often quite slow. The slowness of change stems from many reasons, but I think readiness for change--that is preparedness for the change-agents to organize change and willingness of those asked to change--is perhaps the primary barrier to innovation.

This is why I am so excited about the project that brings us together this morning. Today, we will spend our time with you offering a glimpse into a special project called CHIdush, of which we as a congregation are a part. Chidush is meaningful word, and not just because the first three letters remind us how we spell the name of our city. Chidush in Hebrew means "new learning." And, our new learning is centered on something called design thinking.

When we come across a beautiful design, we often make the mistake that the design itself is simply what something looks like. But in the words of the late Steve Jobs, design is not simply what something looks or feels like. Design is "how" something works.

A design mindset call us to focus on where people are at, for what they aspire. Design thinking then summons our logic, imagination, and intuition to explore new and more desirable outcomes and solutions that meet the customer's aspirations, or in our case, the congregant'.

Put differently, design thinking is a discipline that uses a designer's mentality and methods to match people's needs with practical and thoughtful strategies to ensure meaningful Jewish value and opportunity. And because this process cultivates a closeness between change-agent and change-recipient, there can be an organic connection between both that lends to mutual readiness.

So today, we'd like to share with you some of our learning process so far. I am thankful to Rabbi Manewith, Cantor Friedman, Judy Gadiel, Gerri Persin and Devorah Heyman for your work so far in helping us consider meaningful change in our religious school. It has been a pleasure to accompany you along the way.

Throughout our time together Sunday, we engaged several design thinking strategies and crafted a few ideas, that our committee will clarify, prioritize, and then actualize in the form of testable prototypes. On its face, this experience provided an excellent basis for religious school change, but it also signals an excellent approach to innovation in other aspects of congregational life.

We have convened a number of new leadership teams, who I hope will learn and implement design thinking as a catalyst for meaningful change. These teams are Social Justice, Inclusion, Youth Action, and Spiritual Engagement & Ritual. Please let me know if you would like to contribute time and energy to any of these teams, or others unlisted here. You can reach me at We look forward to welcoming you to the inspiring and imaginative work of design thinking.

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