Author: Chip Mann
Published in February-April 2017 Sinai News
In synagogue life, volunteering and committees are coming full circle. When I was growing up a Sinai, congregants volunteered to teach religious school, head up and serve on committees, baked and served at onegs, among many other tasks.
As time went by, life became more complicated and time consuming. Women began working in greater numbers. Children’s lives became jam packed with activities. Discretionary time disappeared. These changes diminished the ready pool of volunteers we had enjoyed. Even though places like Sinai still meant a great deal to us, many of us reluctantly pulled back our willingness to volunteer and give our time.
As many institutions did, we hired additional staff who brought expertise and hands to do the work formerly done by volunteers. Yet, this shift came at a cost: the less we did as volunteers, the less we felt engaged. Sinai was still warm and welcoming but with fewer congregants engaged in the planning and execution of programs, a bitter cold night or a warm spring day could convince many that “they won’t miss me.” It turned out we did. And we do.
On a very cold day in December, the Board of Trustees had a half-day retreat to discuss engagement. Our goal was to envision ways for the congregation and the board to be further engaged. This issue came to the fore, in part, because we had pared down staff over the past years. The board came to the conclusion that a return to the past model of programming might be the solution. The board divvied up areas like celebrations, social action, ritual, youth and adult education, communications, Hesed (taking care of our own within the congregation), budget and finance and development. Our wonderful professional staff will still be there for support and guidance, but instead of them doing the work for us, they will be doing it with us.
By the time this Sinai News comes to press I hope that all of the committees will have board volunteers ready and willing to start recruiting additional members and getting to work. If you’d like to volunteer on one of the committees, please be in touch with Karen Berk in the office and we’ll make sure your efforts will be rewarding.