There’s no secret sauce: we already know the recipe for Jewish engagement

pexels.elephant-trunk-hand

          How many people does it take to move an elephant?

That’s what the traditionally bureaucratic Jewish community feels like to me sometimes, novices trying to move an elephant. Many just don’t seem to understand what it will take to make that elephant want to move. It hasn’t been for trying.

There are all sorts of tactics used….from offers of ‘free’ to signing this petition or that (pen included) to guilt-laden messages like ‘if you just cared a little bit…’.  And then there are the organizations that post the worst anti-semitic attacks from the past year, offer statistics about assimiliation, and share headlines about hatred. Just today, I read yet another mood-boosting article that appeared in my Inbox: “A Bleak View of American Jewry” 

The fact is, I care a lot—so I need to know that the elephant can, in fact, move. So, how about sharing some stories of success? How did you engage people in your efforts? Tell me some stories, we love stories. There are many good ones out there. I’m lucky, in my work, to hear moving experiences almost every single day. I hear from people who have been touched in a deep way and it has brought them closer to their faith, their families, and places of worship.

Being in fellowship changes people. It’s a slow and steady process of relationship building.

A Chabad Rabbi said it so simply. When asked what his techniques were for engaging so many young students Rabbi Yosef Kulek, at the University of Hartford, summed up Chabad’s approach and success in one word: Love (a dose of great marketing doesn’t hurt). “I know that sounds cliché but it’s really true,” he said.

Chabad has expanded its reach by 500 percent over the span of 15 years. Since 2000, their presence on campus has increased from less than 30 to over 198 today. Yes, growth in the Jewish community.

Unfortunately, there’s no short-cut for the kind of persistent and loving approach that is needed to engage people in a tradition that is overflowing with richness and beauty. Relationship building takes an enormous amount of time, and doesn’t show up in data on how many followers an organization has, how many posts were Favorited, or how many clicks per view a website link got.

It’s about a whole lot of attention and love. That’s what I think will move the elephant.

pexels-elephant sunrays.

 

 

 

 

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About Ruth Schapira

As a Jewish educator and consultant, I hope to spur new ideas through this blog to hopefully inspire conversation and motivate change within the Jewish community. I'm interested in making a difference through training, leadership development, and outreach. View all posts by Ruth Schapira

2 responses to “There’s no secret sauce: we already know the recipe for Jewish engagement

  • Rabbi Martin Vesole

    Chabad does a great job. Relationship building is very important. The trouble with the Chabad model is they are Orthodox and most people aren’t and don’t ever want to be Orthodox. So the rest of us have to find a similar, but still different way. I believe Judaism has to join the 21st Century and find a way to modernize its very rich tradition.

    • Ruth Schapira

      Hi, thank you for your response and for your thinking on this. When you say “the trouble with the Chabad model”…my post takes a different position because there has been verified success in the model of welcoming. Learning from their simple approach (albeit the result of extensive marketing research I’m sure) offers us an opportunity to think about how uncomplicated it can be to reach out to others with authenticity. I think that has to be the very first step, regardless of theology or practice. We are tasked with “V’Ahavta et Rei’echa”— Loving our neighbor, and right now, we’re falling short in that area.

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