Signs of Change

I met recently with leaders at Temple Emanuel, a Reform synagogue in the Mt. Lebanon section of Pittsburgh. This section of the so-called “South Hills” was the first major Jewish community outside of Pittsburgh’s famed Squirrel Hill. Since the Jewish community of Pittsburgh has experienced the same suburban sprawl as many Jewish communities and American cities in general, it is not surprising that Mt. Lebanon is now feeling a pinch.

The synagogue, which recently expanded its building, got permission to place an electronic sign on its property in hopes of attracting more passersby. The current sign, the only type previously allowed by the township, is quite small and difficult to see. As far as I know, this will be one of the first congregations in the country to have an electronic sign.

We spoke a great deal about JOI’s Public Space Judaism model and the desire to reach people through the new sign, particularly interfaith families in the community. We also talked about what message to place on the sign. I asked the congregation to consider what was special about its offerings and what it thought most speaks to people. One of the possibilities I suggested was placing prayers of healing on the board. It is indeed an important part of the culture of the congregation. What would you recommend?

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