On the invitation of our friends at the Valley Jewish Alliance, part of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, Eva Stern (JOI’s senior program office) and I just returned from a week of working closely with the communities in the five valleys of Los Angeles. While we were initially planning on developing a conference in one location for the entire valley, we decided to walk the walk of our own ideology and brought our training session to three locations in three different valleys, including Santa Clarita which purports to be the fastest growing Jewish community in Los Angeles. This session, by the way, was held in a hotel—all part of our efforts to lower the barriers to participation.
Eva and I led these Jewish communal professionals and volunteer leaders through JOI’s philosophy and how it applies to our best outreach practices. What is always most heartening about these experiences is the response—best shown in what is applied immediately thereafter and in the months that follow. We had started working with one particular congregation in Santa Clarita who “got it” even before we arrived. We had been working with this synagogue and its rabbi on their plans for a Purim Carnival at the valley’s well-known Magic Mountain. What we offered most was guidance in unobtrusive name collection and follow-up, two key practices for effective outreach.
All of this work emerged from an environmental community outreach scan that we did about two years ago for two of the valleys. We helped them identify the areas where outreach could be most improved, presenting the community with a baseline upon which it could build the inclusive community that it so desires.