Friday, July 1, 2011

Time to break your addiction

On the way to effective Jewish education, we developed an addiction to
good programs.

Yummy food, advertising that pops, and activities guaranteed to stimulate the senses are hallmarks of dynamo Jewish educational programs. Bragging by educators apres the big event, sounds something like:

“Everyone loved it.” “We had 50/1250 people and wow, did you see those recycled-stick-mezuzahs.”

Sure you get a rush after all the sugar served, the exhausting hours spent organizing it and the smell of the glitter glue used in the arts and crafts project.
Before you can recover, the calendar, like a pusher, comes round demanding, “Do it again and again.”

Lay leaders, high on the x number of people who showed up, add welcomed advice so you can do it even better next time. So sure you plan the next program. Only this time, teens will tweet the event.You gotta up the dose. The more you do, the more you need to do to keep everyone, including yourself, happy.

Fellow educators, lay leaders and clergy, I beg you, go into rehab. Kick the program habit. It’s not getting you anywhere. People leaving with glittered mezzuzote and a clever story about a chicken, a farm and rooster should not add up to success. Aren’t we in the business of Judaism enabling folks to lead more purposeful and meaningful lives?

Go cold turkey, ban programs in the coning year.
Redirect energy. Focus on connecting with the people you are so desperately trying to engage with clever activities.

What’s on the mind of parents? What’s troubling kids? Who are they and what do they care about it? How is Judaism, and the community an anchor, a resource, and a well for living fully?

Community organizers kicked the habit. This week our LOMED team had an hour session with Alex Weissman, a rabbinical student at RRC and a seasoned community organizer. “It’s not an interview, its building a relationship," Alex said as he guided us through a technique well known to organizers, 1-1’s. “You have to know your story too , and know what and when to share. Think of it as 70/30,” said Alex, “you are sharing 30 percent of the time and listening seventy percent.”

Really listening seventy percent of the time? When was the last time a rabbi, or educator did that?

An educational director from a Conservative synagogue in Westchester told me this week: "Cyd, we had a meeting with everyone from the staff, from the janitor to the rabbi. We agreed, we are going to be a synagogue of relationships. The janitor, stood up, and it wasn't even his first language, said, 'I have some ideas about how we can build relationships.'"

The Jewish Education Project’s Summer Institute, to be held August 10, and 11 in NYC for the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, begins with Rabbi Ron Wolfson helping us kick the program habit and get addicted to people. Relationships first, says Dr Wolfson. Doctor, I'm in line for the methadone.