In mid-December, an expanded team of members from our congregation will attend the second Synagogue 2000 conference in Ojai, California. After more than a year of experience as a pilot congregation, we have much to offer the organizers of the project. Similarly, we are looking forward to comparing notes with representatives of the other fifteen pilot sites.
The most difficult task for us will be distilling the breadth and depth of our experiments into a form which can be communicated well. Certainly, we have a "product" to show for it – those of you who attended our second Synagogue Identity Day were introduced to the Magen, the six-pointed papercut which embodies our sense of the vision for our congregation. The papercut, executed by Ellen Wayne from the deliberations of the working group, is sure to generate as much excitement among the S2K community as it has among our local membership. Certainly we have stories to tell about our programmatic triumphs and shortfalls. And certainly those of us who participated in the thirty-some hours of study and consideration will have much to say about those efforts.
But if anything has become clear through our experiences, it is how personal each of us considers his or her attachments to Judaism, to Jewish community and, in the case of our members, to Agudas Achim. One person’s enhancement is another’s heresy. One person’s rich and meaningful tradition is another’s inaccessible and frustrating practice.
The challenge of synagogue life in our time (actually, in any time) is serving a collection of individuals while promoting the values which transcend the particular desires of any sub-group, however large or small. The paradox of the challenge is that it must simultaneously recognize its two aspects. The first is the importance of creating a comfortable climate, reinforcing the participation of individuals. The other is the importance of creating a climate of discomfort, accepting as an axiom that "the way things are" is no proof of "the way things should be," neither for the person nor for the institution.
Much of what our team learned last year in Ojai was common sense. The value of the experience was taking the time to ask the right questions and explore the reasonable answers. I suspect that the learning in California this year will be about how to organize and access what we have learned as individuals and as a congregation so that we can implement the wisdom generated by our discussions.
Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with me or any member of the S2K team.