A Short Brief by Barry


President Barry Deutsch has so much to say and not always the forum to do so. Please visit his blog from time to time and see what he has to say on a variety of topics.

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Temple Menorah President's Weekly Message
We're in a Tidal Wave of Transition

Many in our congregation thought that after an initial period of 90 days on the job, our new Rabbi, Rabbi Leah Lewis, both she and our congregation would have been through a successful transition process, and off we go with business as usual.

The reality is that we’re still in a major tidal wave of transition. We need the members of our community to lean in, step up, raise their hand, and put an ownership stake in their congregation and community to help us successfully come out the other end of this transition process. I recognize that some members are just here for the services they receive – pre-school care, religious school education, and B’nai Mitzvah training as examples.

On the other hand, a large core of our membership is here because they recognize we’re more than an aggregation of services – this core group of our membership recognizes that we’re a thriving, evolving, vibrant community that wishes for Temple Menorah to flourish. Some of our deepest relationships are within this congregation with each other. Some of us feel like Temple Menorah is a second home for our families. Some of us find deep personal value, warmth, and faith by belonging to this congregation and community, particularly when multiple generations have celebrated simchas and tragedy together.

The transition we are in is profound. It’s not just a cosmetic touch-up. The retirement of Rabbi Silver and the hiring of Rabbi Lewis has accelerated this tidal wave of change - it’s all related to our evolution – or should I say revolution – as a congregation and community. The hiring of Rabbi Lewis was simply another step – a big step – along this path.

We hit a point in the last few years where we realized that some of our staff was not the proper staff to take us to the next level of who we need to become as a congregation and community.

We realized in the last few years that our cost model and budget for a 400 member congregation could not be supported by a 225-250 member congregation.

We’ve seen the national Jewish demographic shifts like those published in the Pew Research of a few years ago on Jewish Demographics, Synagogue Membership, and Jewish Identification where fewer families are joining congregations, where younger families are weary of a traditional 1950s membership dues model, and where engagement and relationships is the first step to financial support.

What does our transition look like since Rabbi Lewis joined us?

We’re in the middle of transition in reinventing Religious School and the B’nai Mitzvah experience to make our Jewish education a place where our children love to come and learn.

We’re in the middle of rebuilding our Tuvia pre-school program to be a jewel within our community. For as long as my family has been a member of Temple Menorah, Tuvia has been the engine that has powered our community with new members, potential leaders, and active volunteers.

We’re stopping 20 years of “kicking the can down the street” around financial practices, budgeting, and financial support. We’ve historically not done enough to ensure a strong financial foundation. We’ve relied too much on allowing dues and fees to support our community without working on fundraising.

This transition process is a painful and difficult process of restructuring our staffing model and improving the quality of our staff, reducing costs, improving fundraising and financial support among our members, creating a culture of philanthropy, using best practices to boost our educational capability in everything from Tuvia to adult education, improving our administrative efficiency and effectiveness, and creating more enjoyable opportunities for spiritual growth.

And we’re trying to do it all in the span of a year. My head is ready to explode given the changes we’ve taken on since hiring Rabbi Lewis, and the changes coming in the next 6-12 months. Unfortunately, we can’t wait for a typical congregational timeframe of a decade or longer of slow, incremental, and cautious change to impact our community. The time is NOW! The analogy I like to paint is one of ripping the band-aid off all at once, putting the pain and angst of healing behind us, and moving forward to a healthier place.

I am approaching my final year of a double term as President. It is my hope that over the next year to leave Rabbi Lewis with a strong financial foundation, an engaged community of doers, volunteers, and leaders, and a congregation and community that has burst through a transition period with a renewed vigor and energy around moving from GOOD to GREAT.

I need your help. I need your time, participation, and sweat equity. My generation has reached a point where our energy level is beginning to fade. We need a new generation of volunteers and leaders – folks like Cliff Numark, Jon Johnson, Evy Jacobsen, Ronnie Glassman, Gary Flam, Evan Green, and Jen Molod – to mention just a few names. When I reach out to you in the next month or two – please be thinking of what you’re passionate about – and how you would like to help move our congregation from GOOD to GREAT. Rabbi Lewis and I are looking for new leaders to step up into key event, committee, and board level positions. We’re also considering launching a leadership development program to ensure a continuous wave of new leaders coming through our community year after year.

Finally, together we must move from our over-reliance on dues and fees to support our community. We’re woefully behind the national average where most congregations fund their operations with 20 percent or more of their budget coming from fund-raising and the tzedakah of their members. We’re down around 5%. A congregation cannot survive long-term if it’s only raising 5% of the annual budget from fund-raising and giving.

As I start reaching out in the next few weeks to you, please open up your heart to consider boosting your financial support of our community beyond dues and fees. This is your congregation –  the hallmark of great congregations and communities is where a vast majority of members feel a strong moral obligation to ensure financial success. Let’s move from a culture of “I’m paying enough for the services I receive” to one in which this congregation and community feel very special to you – and we’re all willing to show support in time and in tzedakah.

Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving as your President over the last 3 years. I’m excited to be starting my final year on July 1 – and in helping Rabbi Lewis build on her vision of what we can become as a congregation and community. I cannot express enough gratitude for what Temple Menorah has meant to my family over two decades of membership.