The second round of calls in our Agudas Achim Network is almost complete, thanks to the corps of volunteers and the indefatigable Holly Higgins. The level of enthusiasm for this project is heartening, and the responses of the congregants are almost entirely encouraging. With very few exceptions, support for our overall endeavor is high, and complaints fall mostly into the category of constructive criticism.
Still, two small patterns emerge which need to be addressed so that people know they are being heard.
During the first round of calls, a number of congregants raised issues they thought worth considering. They ranged from membership policies to facility usage to suggestions about ambience. Some of those same people were concerned, when contacted during this round of calls, that nothing had been done about their first communications. That impression is our fault. All of the specific suggestions have indeed been referred to the appropriate committees and individuals. Of course, the congregants had no way of knowing that!
We offer our apologies for not figuring out how to most effectively follow up on general suggestions we're working on it. Rest assured, everything reported to us has been taken seriously. Some matters, particularly policy changes, take time and careful consideration. (Those of you concerned that Synagogue 2000 will mandate rapid change should take heart from this experience!)
The other pattern is a matter for me to address personally. A few congregants not a groundswell, but a sufficient number to make me take notice had praise for my more public roles, but expressed concern that they took me away from the needs of congregants. To be sure, it is sometimes difficult to connect with me evenings and weekends, particularly with short notice. However, the best part of what I do is the time I spend with members of the congregation on the concerns of their personal lives. Over the past few weeks, not an unusual period of time, I have spent hours in conversation with people from all generations and circumstances in the synagogue. Some come in the transition of a life cycle event, some with personal distress, some to investigate their spiritual questions, some for study, some bearing the burden of an interpersonal dilemma. Together we explore, commiserate and reach for responses to the challenges of life.
One of the only things these people have in common is that they found a mutually available time for us to talk. I invite you to do the same. Some of you are reluctant to do so, hoping I will take the initiative with a phone call, or at kiddush or oneg shabbat, or as the result of a passing conversation. I wish I were able to do so consistently and regularly, but I cannot. So please consider this my invitation. I consider it the best part of my job.