Meet Rabbi Andrew. Like many who try to lead change, he believes better programs will make the needed difference. He also believes that his unique power and role are the requisite engine for change. Where does Rabbi Andrew go wrong?
Rabbi Andrew Leads Change
“Hopelessness in the Face of Abundance” is the title of Rabbi Andrew’s Rosh Hashanah sermon. Prayer, he lets his congregants know, is the gateway for living in a high tech world where people are working harder, fearing more and believing in less. A four day rabbinical retreat on “Sacred Community” convinced Rabbi Andrew that if he could transform the congregation from a mall-like provider of “Jewish services” to a sacred center where people turned to prayer in times of need, hopefulness could be restored. He is ready to lead the change.
Following the Chagim, Rabbi Andrew posts a new course on the Temple’s list-serv: “Prayerful Living-A Path to Hope.” He directs his secretary to put a notice for his new class in with next month’s bills. Before Rabbi Andrew leaves for the cantor’s office, Shirley, his secretary calls out, “Rabbi I saw a course on sacred prayer advertised at the JCC.” “Thank-you, Shirley. I'm off to see the cantor, will be back in 20 minutes."
Cantor Sherry moves a pile of books off a chair to make room for Rabbi Andrew. She is excited to chat with him about her new idea about holding classes in people's homes. She thinks the gloomy classrooms in their old building isn't helpful. Cantor Sherry doesn't get a chance to broach the subject. Rabbi details the necessity of adding niggunim to Kabbalat Shabbat services.
Rabbi Andrew makes a note to go over to the educational wing next week to meet with the Educational Director. He has lamented for years that the teachers in the school are not “prayerful.” How can teachers who don’t know how to find the sacred in prayer teach anything but empty words? “The Educational Director really should be replaced,” he thinks.
Rabbi Andrew moves on to the Board Meeting where he eloquently delivers his D’var Torah about getting un-wired from caffeine and iphones. "Prayer is a direct line for rewiring life's rhythm" "Yasher Koach," comes the refrain from the Board members.
The President then moves on to the issue of a balanced budget. After some very heated arguments, it is decided the Executive Committee will determine cuts for next year. Many members leave angry. Rabbi Andrew is annoyed that his proposal for a sacred community retreat was quickly shot down. He had already discussed it in detail with the President prior to the meeting. She had been reassuring. The verdict from the Board: “We love the idea, but there is no money.”
In the coming weeks, ten people attend Rabbi Andrew’s class about how prayer can help you live with the holy. The Educational Director puts a memo in the teacher’s boxes to focus on "the sacred" when teaching prayer. She attaches an article for teachers and parents to read from Synagogue 3000. The cantor adds niggunim to services. The Shabbatniks enjoy the melodies.
The Executive Committee meets. The roof needs repair. Our Temple has been in the red before and refuses to be again, “We’ll pay for the roof.This year, no raises.” says the President. Motion passes. Next on the agenda: declining membership.
Where does Rabbi Andrew go right? Go wrong?
Next week I'll post the rewritten story of Rabbi Andrew when he leads change armed with frameworks for organizational change.