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Redefining the Synagogue Model

During the past two weeks, I attended a virtual, national conference for Synagogue Executive Directors. While this year could not be in person, it was still content rich; and when I say content rich, I mean this in two ways - the planned sessions and the multiple less formal conversations about the current challenges facing Jewish synagogue communities.

Going back several years, I’ve often felt the traditional synagogue model was lacking in comparison to the high potential that exists within it. Because of Covid, we are being forced to re-evaluate this traditional building-focused model. We are now heavily looking at our community from a human-centric position. I think taking a human centric approach has always been the intent, but we were letting our (building’s) walls stump our creativity, definition of connections and community involvement.

At my conference, we spoke in detail about the human-centric design model for planning. This model dives deeper than just looking at the needs of the community, but also explores the perceived versus the actual needs. It is from understanding the actual needs of our congregants that we began planning, growing and thriving.

Over the next couple of years, I strongly believe we will see changing structures within Jewish communities across the nation. More specifically, we will see more collaboration and partnerships between synagogue communities, more access points for people to become engaged. Two thousand and twenty has been a rough year for a number of Jewish agencies, camps, institutions and synagogues. However, while it is these challenges that are guiding us into 2021, it is the solutions around it that will lead to exciting new visions, approaches... no longer a feeling of being bound by walls.


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