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Future of Synagogue Life

“Mom, why do you have to go to Arizona for ‘so long’ for work? Can’t you just fly home each night and go back the next morning?” Such a sweet request from my youngest before I left for a conference; however, to be honest, I think his motivation was missing the dog while staying with his dad in my absence. Regardless, I will tell myself that it was because they just love me that much! 😊

I was in Arizona this past November for the national conference for Synagogue Executive Directors across the reform movement. During the pandemic, I didn’t appreciate how much I missed in-person professional development and networking. This opportunity was helpful in that it reminded me of the value of those things I took for granted and I was able to bring my learnings home to Emanuel. (Ok and I must admit, 88 degree weather in mid–November was nice too, but I will try not to rub that in too much.)

As many of you know from this past year of messages from our Temple President, we are in the process of re-envisioning Emanuel for our next 140 years to ensure we are financially stable as we continue to meet the needs of our community. As to the struggles we face...we are not alone! This being said, I am proud to report our Legacy Team's work regarding our future is on target! This includes making strategic decisions about space, programming, and other necessary items for reconsideration.

Space, though, is a big one. Many congregations own buildings. However, owning a larger space without a space sharer is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, financially. Many congregations are just beginning to talk about exploring permanent space shares or are considering a move to different spaces. This is something we are already doing and making significant progress.

Programming is another major area of change. In the past, programs were developed and people would come to temples for those programs. It was not uncommon for similar programs to be held each year; They were planned from an event perspective, mostly logistics. But needs change! People are looking for meaningful gatherings, connections, not just programs. What does this mean? We have four great examples at Emanuel right now.

The first one is the Share Shabbat. Share Shabbats allow people to come and meet new people, have conversations and get to know one another. The second is the Tikkun Olam book club. This group was self-started by a group interested in specific books, and they continue to meet and grow in a way that works for the group. This means meeting virtually, even potentially at people’s homes – or whatever works for the group.

The third is the Shalom Hartman class. This class developed out of a desire for people to study together. And while there is Rabbinic leadership, this group really helps drive the learning and sharing and continues to meet with new topics every 12 weeks.

Last example, but hardly the last one, is our Eeshas. The Eeshas started a group that allows for relationship-building through activities and shared learning experiences. These happen virtually and at alternative locations.

The common theme for these examples is being member-driven out of a desire to do something specific... they reach out to friends to join; they continue to plan based on the desires of the group. All of this lends to creating meaningful connections around common interests. This is the wave of the future.

These examples are not meant to be exhaustive. I encourage each of you to think about what you are interested in and how we can make that happen through Emanuel, with your help. Do you want to host a Shabbat dinner and meet new people and invite old friends? Do you want to join one of these groups already happening? Do you have an area of interest, and you and some friends who want to brainstorm with you as to how we can create something new within our community? Please reach out to us! As a small staff, we need help from our members to create and run these meaningful gatherings, but the staff are here to help you!

Overall, There are a lot of decisions ahead of us and the team is doing incredible work to make thoughtful, strategic decisions. At this conference, I was proud to learn we are on the right path and even ahead in various areas of our thinking and planning.

One last request, please take a moment and consider Emanuel in your year-end giving. There are a few ways to donate. One is to sponsor a specific item or activity at Emanuel through this form (sponsorships range from shabbat candles to classroom supplies to a new dishwasher). The second way is a straight donation by clicking here. The third is to consider us in your estate planning. You can contact me for more information on how to do any of these.


SaraBeth Salzman

Executive Director


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