Last Thursday, over 40 Jewish communal professionals and volunteer leaders from across North America came together for a conference call to begin thinking about their outreach programming efforts around the High Holidays. As many institutions begin to set their program calendar for 2014-2015 now, this is an optimal time to make outreach and engagement a year-round imperative, instead of being caught off-guard in late August with no time or resources to plan.
The group truly spanned North America, with callers from New York to California, Utah to Montreal, and also came from a diverse set of institutions and positions. Synagogues from several denominations were represented, as well as JCCs and Federations. We had rabbis, executive directors, membership chairs, and programming volunteers—all of whom are crucial to the way their institutions “do outreach.”
While we mostly discussed Big Tent Judaism’s program offerings for the High Holidays, we also talked about beginning to think now about key moments in both the Jewish and secular calendar around which to plan public space programming. Does your community hold a public menorah lighting for Hanukkah? Make it a truly community-wide gathering! Is Earth Day big in your town? Be a part of the local fair or festival! We have to think about where people are in the course of their lives, not just their “Jewish lives”—meaning while our rhythms may involve Hebrew school and synagogue meetings, the people we want to welcome to the community may be focused on soccer practice and yoga.
For the High Holidays, Big Tent Judaism offers two Public Space JudaismSM programs: Color-Me Calendar for the Jewish New Year and A Spoonful of Honey: Rosh Hashanah Gourmet Honey Tasting. Both of these programs are held in public secular spaces where people can literally stumble upon the fun activities offered. Our other program for the High Holidays is High Holiday Highlights—a prep class created under the umbrella of The Mothers Circle, a program for women of other backgrounds raising Jewish children. This class, which can be opened to more than just women of other backgrounds, is a great introduce to what one will see and experience both in the synagogue and at home during the High Holidays, and most importantly, how to share these moments with our children.
If you would like to bring any of these programs to your community this year, please contact me as soon as possible at AKaletsky[at]JOI.org so we can begin to get you everything you need to open the tent of your community. We also have a resource for High Holiday greeters we can share with you. And if you’d like to chat about future holiday programs, we’re more than happy to help you get a head start.