We are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.
Repair the World, Transform the Synagogue
One of the highlights of the past few months at CJC has been the creation of a Tikkun Olam task force. I take absolutely no credit for it, but am delighted to give it my blessing. Jay Gewirtzman chairs it and he, Janet Gewirtzman, Paula Saltzman, Lauren Sklarin and many others have devoted themselves to it. A lot of pent-up, positive energy has been released. Nearly thirty of our members, young and old, have already offered to help!
The TO group worked with PRONTO in Bay Shore and the Women’s Shelter in Brentwood on Thanksgiving. For Christmas, more volunteer activities are planned.
Why do I think that this tikkun olam effort is so significant for us? Not only because fixing (even small) injustices in society is an essential Jewish task, but also because CJC is starting to move toward a new model of what a synagogue should be.
Declining synagogues tend to focus all their efforts on the young people, spending almost no time helping adults develop themselves as Jews and ”mensches.” The declining synagogue hardly ever reaches out to the wider community, and is instead all about belonging to an institution. It is a well-oiled machine which requires a large amount of energy by the rabbi and lay people to keep running.
But today many people are looking for something different. They come to shul not because they feel that they should show up from time to time to get their money’s worth, but because they have an itch they cannot scratch. They want to be part of a big, bold vision.
In other words, healthy, thriving synagogues are all about changing individuals and society. People are changed, equipped and sent out in teams. New and deeper friendships are formed. Membership is not about making sacrifices for the synagogue, but about receiving sincere appreciation for your personal gifts and individual qualities.
Moreover, the new synagogue is an evolving organism, not a hierarchical organization. Board members are not managers but spend effort continually sharing authority, encouraging experimentation, and focusing the synagogue on its core values.
In the new model, synagogue leaders do not spend all of their time asking, “How are we going to survive?” Instead, they ask, “Why are we here?” and “What are we called to do?” For they know that if the congregation is talking about survival instead of purpose, its chances of survival will diminish dramatically.
This is precisely what our Tikkun Olam task force represents. If we succeed with it, we will not only be helping the hungry and the homeless (a great thing in itself), but will also be changing the culture of the synagogue from a membership culture to a culture of purpose and value.
—Rabbi David Klatzker