Growing the Synagogue-Federation Connection

A few weeks ago, just before the start of the fall Jewish holiday marathon (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simhat Torah), someone remarked to me that having been a synagogue president must have been a thankless task. I knew what they meant — lots of meetings, phone calls, requests, crises, fundraising, leadership management — and it certainly is one of the most challenging volunteer positions I’ve ever held. But I never thought of it as “thankless.”

 

My actual response was to say that anyone who takes on the job of synagogue president expecting thanks is in for a rude awakening. The thanks come in far more interesting and, in fact, rewarding ways.

 

At this busy season, the reward comes in seeing the congregation come together to pray as a community. It comes from watching congregational schools and preschools come alive with young voices and faces. And as the year progresses, it comes from working closely with clergy and staff to present programs and prayer services that engage the members of the congregation in Jewish life. It comes from working with lay leaders, encouraging them as they chair committees, work on budgets, and plan for the future. 

 

Here in MetroWest, we are fortunate to have many, many thriving synagogues of all denominations, and unaffiliated synagogues as well. At the helm of each is a dedicated lay leader, helping to create Jewish community. And each of these lay leaders and their congregations help to make up the greater community that is MetroWest.

 

There are all kinds of institutions that bring us together, but I would venture to say there is nowhere an individual or family feels more closely connected to Judaism than through their synagogue/shul/temple, whatever term it is that you use. It is your Jewish home base of operations.

 

In recognition of the vital importance of the synagogues of MetroWest, the Synagogue-MetroWest Connection was created during Ken Heyman’s presidency of UJC MetroWest. Last year, I was honored to head that effort. We published MetroWest Connecting, a guide for synagogue leadership and professionals. It is the source to learn about grants and subsidies available to synagogues and their members, opportunities to connect to our local agencies and communities in Israel, professional development programs,

and more. View the brochure here.

 

This year, I’m pleased to report that Gary Aidekman, immediate past president of UJC MetroWest, will be taking over this important effort. Together with Rabbi Mark Mallach, chair of the UJC MetroWest Rabbinic Cabinet, they will be working with the leadership of our MetroWest congregations to explore even more paths to connect our congregations with our federation. 

 

I always say that I would not have been able to be a synagogue president without all of the training I had through federation, and that I am certainly a better federation leader for having been president of a synagogue. I think this is emblematic of the larger relationship between synagogues and the federation. Federation has the ability to act as a community convener, much as we did on October 16, the kickoff to Step Up For Israel.

 

It is the over 30 supporting synagogues, however, that will ultimately deliver the follow-up educational movies to their members, teaching them how to best represent Israel in conversations with friends, family, neighbors, and the larger community. This is but one example of what we can do when synagogue and federations work together.

 

If you are or were a synagogue president, I do want to say “Thank you.” The community needs and appreciates your hard work and dedication to the creation of kehillah kadosh, the holy congregation. And UJC MetroWest wants to hear your ideas and suggestions of how we can strengthen your congregations and our entire community. You will be hearing from Gary Aidekman shortly and we look forward to maintaining and growing the Synagogue-MetroWest Connection.

 

All the best,

Leslie

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