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We Won and We Learned

10/06/2019 06:43:26 PM


Deb Bakal, Temple President

When my children were younger, Jeff and I would often ask after a chess tournament or a sporting event, “Did you win or did you learn?” I loved this way of framing the competition–no matter what the outcome was, it was positive. For us at Beth Tikvah, with the recent URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) congregational survey, I would say we had the rare experience in which we both won and learned. Not only did we complete the survey in record numbers, we received very high rankings from our participants in regards to their feelings of connection to our synagogue, programs, and clergy. The data also revealed some areas of opportunity to strengthen our community so we learned where to focus our energies as leaders.

Fredi Bleeker Franks was our assigned mentor for this project and worked with me, Terrie O’Day, Gayle Kopin, Mark Schlossberg, Scott Lesht, and Rabbi Tachman to analyze the data once our community completed the survey. We worked very hard to promote this process to all of you, making group and individual requests to do the survey. Fredi told us that we had one of the highest rates of participation of all congregations, with 74% of our members answering the questions and 267 individual responses. We had also recruited and requested non-members and prospective members to participate. Our results are particularly valuable because so many of you chose to share your opinions. Thank you to Publicity for promoting the survey and to all of you for completing it.

How did we win? Reviewing our results, we saw that our respondents would overwhelming recommend our congregation to a friend–92% of us, as compared to only 89% of respondents from other synagogues; and 63% of our respondents strongly agreed with this statement, as opposed to only 55% from other congregations. (See table later in article.) Our data showed that 88% of us feel we have a good relationship with our professional leadership, and 83% of us feel that we approve of our volunteer leadership. For both of these areas, the remainder largely neither agreed or disagreed–very few disapproved of our professional or volunteer leadership. The majority of us have found meaningful relationships by being part of Beth Tikvah. Similarly, most of us feel that our synagogue membership is a good value and that we have a sense of belonging. A significant majority also feel that Beth Tikvah has supported or inspired us to become involved in social action and/or social justice.

We also learned what brings our congregants into the community and what aspects of membership make them remain. Not surprisingly, the most common reason for joining the synagogue was for an educational program such as religious school, with the other reasons being our clergy and synagogue’s approach to Judaism, the people in the community, and family tradition. People stay members, however, because of the relationships they form. At my installation, I spoke of my presidential theme–Join the Dance.

My dream–that all of us would be part of the “dance” of our community in whatever capacity we can or want to be, and that we extend ourselves and invite each other to join in–aligns with this idea of the importance of relationships. By serving together, dancing together, learning together, or praying together, we form relationships and these relationships keep us a part of our community.

The survey did not show any significant weaknesses in our congregation as compared to other synagogues, but it did show us some areas of opportunity. In terms of understanding of our budget, about 15% of us feel that we could use more transparency. This was the single area that we did not perform as well or better than like-congregations–but even here we only had a small percentage of us who expressed this lack of understanding.

I will plan to communicate more clearly about how our membership contributions are used to fund our needs. When surveyed about their plans to leave an endowment to the temple, 40% percent of Beth Tikvah members neither agreed or disagreed with that idea. As so many of us feel so connected to Beth Tikvah, we should think about planning for its future as we think ahead with our financial plans. We are planning a program this winter to introduce this idea to all of you.

In addition to the survey, our congregants completed, our board also completed survey questions regarding our roles. Again, we performed very well, but a few areas of opportunity emerged from these results. The board identified that we need to update our mission statement to more accurately reflect our current culture so we have undertaken this process. Our board also felt that we need more leadership development, so we have instituted the Step Up program to educate more of our congregants about the community and inspire them to serve.

The URJ survey confirmed what many of us know–we are a strong, connected community that cares about its members and the world around us. Relationships are what keep us a part of Beth Tikvah so please reach out to your friends, to other religious school parents, Sisterhood members, Men’s Club attendees, to new faces at services and programs, and include them in your lives. Ask them to join the dance at Beth Tikvah and become a part of whatever activities and program you enjoy. As we strengthen these relationships,

we solidify our community even more. As your president, and with the help of the rest of the board, I look forward to using what we learned from the URJ survey to make us even stronger.

Wishing all of my Beth Tikvah family a meaningful High Holy Day season,

Deb Bakal

Fri, February 28 2020 3 Adar 5780