Last week I attended a Talmud class (Jewish oral law with commentary) sponsored by Kehilat Hadar, an independent prayer group in Manhattan, and I came out of it with a decidedly sunny feeling for a variety of reasons. The class was fantastic and my study partner promised to bake me a cheesecake when she came over for lunch, and by themselves, both of these certainly are cause enough for excitement. Even more inspiring than the promise of free baked goods, though, was finding that Hadar used much of the methodology that we here at JOI recommend.
At JOI, we believe that programs of all types – both inreach and outreach - are only effective vehicles if names of newcomers are collected and followed-up on a personal basis. We call this idea FUNCSM, for Follow-Up Through Name Collection.
Although the class required some prior knowledge, and thus was not ideal as a portal to the Jewish community for the unengaged or unaffiliated, I was impressed by Hadar’s use of name collection and follow-up. Names were collected as soon as a person entered the room—those who had attended previously already had their names on a sheet where their attendance was tracked. In addition, everyone received a punch card that enabled people to attend four classes and then sit for their fifth class at no extra cost. I told the name-collector that punch cards—and other incentives that encourage repeated attendance–are exactly the kind of thing JOI has long been advocating as an example of outreach best practices. After attending their classes, I have received several personalized follow-up e-mails, in addition to receiving e-mails inviting me to similar events – yet another example of the right way to do things from an outreach perspective.
It is important, to offer events such as this Talmud class that benefit those in the Jewish community who are currently involved and looking to continue their involvement. Hadar’s name collection and follow-up strategies certainly should be effective in keeping the already-engaged coming back, though many may be willing to do so regardless of the extra outreach work put in by the program sponsor. Hopefully, Hadar and other organizations will use the same excellent name collection and follow-up techniques when hosting lower-barrier events to ensure that those on the periphery begin and continue engagement with the Jewish community. Punch cards and cheesecake were enough to win me over, but it’s the follow-up emails and program invitations that will truly be effective in bringing in those further away from the inner circle of the community.