The Jew in the Pew

Photo by Chorus Photography 🙂

So far in my career, I have worked for two Jewish organizations, including 13 years at my synagogue as their program and communications director. I love working and volunteering in these communities. It is our home away from home for our family. And whether I’m attending a staff meeting, a board meeting, or a committee meeting, there is one question that is on all of our minds.

How do we reach the Jew in the Pew? Meaning how can we engage the people who come into our building? Whether they are sitting in services or dropping their kids off at Sunday school, what can we, as a congregation or an organization, do to get them to stick around and become more active members?

Here are some of the things we ask ourselves:

Who are they? Are they single or married? Young? Older? Do they have kids? How old are their kids? Do they need babysitting offered at events? What youth or family-friendly programs can we offer? Are they empty nesters or retirees? What adults-only events can we offer? What do these people do for a living? What skills do they have that could help make our community stronger?

What do they like? Are they avid readers or runners? Do they enjoy cooking? Do they play mah jongg? Can they speak Yiddish? Would they want to start a business networking group or a Sunday poker game? How about a pickleball tournament?! Maybe they want to see a show in NYC, visit the Deep South and learn about the Civil Rights Movement, or go to the Holy Land. What kinds of events put tushies in the seats? By the way – this is another way to say “Jew in the Pew.”

What are they searching for? Spiritual enlightenment? Answers to life’s biggest questions? A religious education for their kids or having the bat mitzvah they were denied when they were of age? A place to worship on Friday nights or just attend High Holy Days services in a place where everybody knows their name? The possibilities are endless.

What are they passionate about? Women’s rights? Abortion access? Racial justice? Their grandchildren? Their retirement? Do they love art, music, or culture? How can we incorporate their passions into our community?

These are the conversations that happen behind the bima (pulpit) all the time. So, if you belong to a synagogue, know that the clergy, professionals, educators, board members, and volunteers are thinking about you and hoping you will get more involved. Because we know what makes our communities so special is not the size of the building but the people who light it up inside.

How active are you in your place of worship? Let me know in the comments.



4 comments on The Jew in the Pew

  1. vidya
    July 20, 2023 at 3:19 am (2 months ago)

    It is so very amazing to see the hard work and thought such organizations put into making sure people coming in feel included and supported..

  2. Carol Newman
    July 18, 2023 at 6:27 pm (2 months ago)

    When we moved to Anne Arundel County, Maryland from Queens, New York I realized we had to find a synagogue ASAP. 39 years later we are still members of the same congregation. We became active right away and remain active. I have served as Sisterhood president, and have been on many committees and held other positions. My husband has been the congregational president, my daughter is currently Sisterhood co-president, my son-in-law is the assistant treasurer, and my granddaughters are active in religious school classes and projects. My younger daughter became a rabbi and starts a new position as a pulpit rabbi next week. That branch of my family tree is in Buffalo. Temple Solel in Bowie is a special place where friends become family.

    • Elisa
      July 18, 2023 at 9:21 pm (2 months ago)

      I love everything about this Carol – this sounds just like my family. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Tamara
    July 18, 2023 at 7:24 am (2 months ago)

    How admirable that you and the other people in charge put so much thought into how you could better support the community. Way to go!

%d bloggers like this: