Ruth Decalo (JOI’s Sr. Director of Program and Training) and I recently traveled to Los Angeles to debrief community institutions in the West Valley and Conejo Valley on the welcoming nature of their institutions—at the invitation of the Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Our conversations emerged from the environmental outreach scan of their community JOI completed a few months ago. This was the second in a series of steps in JOI’s Community Transformation Initiative.
Following a long day of debriefing with institutions one at a time, we spent the next day training volunteer leaders and Jewish communal professionals in some of JOI’s signature outreach methodology. Among the many things that we did was help them understand the role of “gatekeepers,” particularly those responsible for answering e-mails and the telephone, to make sure that they are able to transform each contact into an opportunity for outreach. The front line is indeed the bottom line for these institutions, yet we don’t always recognize it.
Because I believe that we miss various opportunities to share the essential message of our institutions with those on the periphery who have yet to enter our institutions, particularly those who are intermarried, I asked certain questions that I often ask: What is the essential message that you want to communicate with those who have not yet crossed the threshold of your institution? And how are you doing so? What is it that you believe they will come to know if they only would enter your doors and spend time inside the walls of your institution?
So I ask our blog readers the same thing: If you are active in a Jewish communal institution, why? And is that institution taking that “why” and demonstrating it to those who have not yet joined you?