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.