There was a short but significant news item in the JTA today about a Rosh Hashanah service in the Baltimore area. They reported that “at least 5,000 people attended a free Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars service” this past weekend at Oregon Ridge Park, just north of the city. Hosted by the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, it was the third time the congregation held a public Rosh Hashanah service, and they are hoping to repeat the outcome of the last two years – namely getting families to join the congregation and become enterprising members of the community.
While we would not encourage BHC to immediately pitch membership since we believe affiliation comes from engagement, we are excited to see how the congregation is trying to maximize the impact of the High Holidays to create lasting and meaningful relationships.
This demonstrates once again that following a few tried and true inclusive strategies – such as lowering or eliminating cost and location barriers – can help us attract unaffiliated members of the community and give us a wonderful opportunity for engagement. But it doesn’t have to happen only around holidays. Hopefully the more we hear about people creating these opportunities for engagement, the more we’ll hear about communities experimenting with a variety of innovative outreach techniques that encourage all underserved populations to do more Jewish activities and become more involved in Jewish life.