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September 2022 Rabbi Arnow's Article

New Members, New Relationships
One of my favorite parts of my job as a rabbi of Kol Rinah is meeting with new and prospective congregants. I like meeting new people, and hearing of their life stories and their Jewish stories, and learning what excites and motivates them. Considering how they might fit into and plug into our community—what programs, groups and people would be good matches for them, is so satisfying too.
I also like sharing what I love about Kol Rinah—our particular blend of tradition and innovation, the ways we are inclusive and have become more so over the last years, our history of merging and creating our beautiful new home. If that’s the “sales” part of my job, I have a product I really love and believe in.
In good news, of late, we have been (net!) gaining members. We’ve recently had people join who have not belonged to a synagogue in a long time. We’ve had new members who just moved here, or just moved back. We have people joining who are later in life, who are in their twenties, who are getting married, who have little kids, who have children or grandchildren who are members here…
Our Engagement Committee does a wonderful job delivering new member baskets. And Board members do a wonderful job calling and welcoming new members as well. We had a huge cohort for New Member Shabbat this past spring, covering all the years we’d missed because of Covid.
Covid and virtual programming and Zoom meetings have made it hard, though, for new folks to be integrated into community—whether here at Kol Rinah, or new employees working remotely for a company. We’ve had fewer big events the last few years, and while attendance on Shabbat mornings is edging up, it’s still less than half of what it was before Covid. This means there’s not the same center of gravity for new members to come to and meet “the community.”
If you are a newish member—what has your “integration” into Kol Rinah been like? What’s been good, and what could we be doing better? And what could you be doing more of or better at too in this area?
If you’ve been a part of this community for a long time, how many newish members have you gotten to know? Have you made an effort to welcome anyone new? Would you be willing to be part of that sacred relational work?
Part of my job as a rabbi is to know and be in relationship with the members of the synagogue. At this point, I do know almost every member, even though I don’t get to spend enough time with just about anyone. So, on the High Holidays, looking around the courtyard, the sanctuary, the community hall, and seeing all these people who I know and love is stunning and overwhelming.
I want that for all of you too—I want each of you to look around at the times when our community really shows up and feel overwhelmed (in the best possible way!) by the network of relationships you have at Kol Rinah. That takes time and effort.
What do you need to feel this more?
What can you do and give to create this more, for you and others?
I would love to be in conversation with anyone about this. And I hope that over the coming months and years, we can continue to build this inclusive community of relationships.
Fri, July 12 2024 6 Tammuz 5784