Posts Tagged ‘synagogue transformation’

 

What Happens When Leaders Disconnect Goals from Values?

Posted on: May 4th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Disclaimer: Like many of my blog posts, this blog is about leadership and Jewish values. Examples that refer to President Trump are to illustrate enduring points about leadership.)

About nine months prior to the 2016 presidential election, I dramatically cut back on my news consumption. Many respected journalists and political experts refused to accept that candidate Trump was going to totally disrupt presidential campaigns and continued to seek “evidence” Trump eventually would behave more like a “normal leader.” Often, their analyses masqueraded as speculation and gossip. Post-election, some of the better journalists across the political spectrum have regained their footing and are working their investigative and analytical skills more critically about the nature of President Trump’s leadership. My interest in raising the question, “What kind of leader is Donald Trump?” comes trying to understand what Jewish wisdom has to say about a leader who consistently says and does one thing and then within a short time frame, does the opposite.

Not too long ago, we used to call this lying and, in my mind, it still is. Donald Trump redefined campaigning, just as he is redefining the office of the presidency, and it’s possible that more people like him will now consider running for public office. Politicians will devise their own strategies for dealing with someone like Donald Trump. But how can clergy use their public voice to express dismay over any leader who lies regularly about significant issues by asserting one position, only to withdraw it soon after?

Hayim Herring Consultant

Here’s a very relevant insight from an ancient sage, Rabban Gamliel, who lived in the first Century C.E. – a very politically active time in Israel. He said, “Not all who engage in much business become wise” (Avot 2:6, Sefaria translation). Though ancient, this rabbi’s insight sounds fresh. He warned against equating business acumen with overall wisdom. True, an experienced business person may have abundant talent in one specific area, but that experience does not automatically confer any virtues upon that individual. It’s the same as anyone who shows a level of athletic prowess or artistic brilliance. At a minimum, it means that they have a deep unique talent in at least one area of life. But excellence in one area of life does not automatically make someone wise or virtuous in other areas of life.

People like Donald Trump have built their reputations around being “winners.” Winning is a goal whose means are amoral, meaning that morality or other virtues, if they are at all considerations, are secondary to “winning.” Whether an amoral leader seals a “deal with the devil” or seals a “deal with the deity” (our better angels) is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean that values are unimportant, but such considerations are utilitarian means to the end of “winning.” If they help, fine. If not, that’s also fine. It’s winning that counts, not so much how you get there.

The drive to be a success in business is a goal, and goals lack inherent moral values. Some successful business people become truly wise and realize that success is a privilege to use in service of others. Some experienced business people never become wise enough to realize that winning for its own sake turns them into amoral leaders. And amoral leaders are likely to make a higher percentage of immoral choices. Why? Because whichever partner offers the better odds of achieving the goal of winning-regardless of beliefs they hold or reprehensible actions they’ve taken-is the best partner.

For my clergy friends: if you want to try to anticipate Trump’s next move, then try and think like a person for whom winning overrides moral considerations. Then, acting morally, have several scenarios that anticipate possible next moves and mobilize accordingly. As we might see more individuals with strong business backgrounds who believe that goals override values, seeking to unsettle the political establishment in future elections, remembering that, “Not all who engage in much business become wise” (Avot 2:6, Sefaria translation) is good advice to guide us in preparing for rocky political roads ahead.

Fanatic Focus vs. Distraction Disorder

Posted on: June 30th, 2014 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

I recently read an article, “Feeling More Antsy and Irritable Lately? Blame Your Smartphone.” One of its authors, Nicholas Carr, noted: “Back in 2006, a famous study of online retailing found that a large percentage of online shoppers would abandon a retailing site if its pages took four seconds or longer to load. In the years since then, the so-called Four Second Rule has been repealed and replaced by the Quarter of a Second Rule. Studies by companies like Google and Microsoft now find it takes a delay of just 250 milliseconds in page-loading for people to start abandoning a site. ‘Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,’ a top Microsoft engineer said in 2012. To put that into perspective, it takes about the same amount of time for you to blink an eye.”

 

If he’s right that means many of us have attention spans about as long as the blink of an eye!

 

I’m not sure if the American Psychological Association has come up with a name for our collective impatience and inability to focus, so let me suggest Distraction Disorder.

 

OSTILL/Thinkstock

OSTILL/Thinkstock

 

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Be Entrepreneurial, Not Innovative

Posted on: January 16th, 2014 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

“Drop the quest for innovation and adopt the mentality of entrepreneurship.” That was my essential message to of a wonderful group of rabbis from the Philadelphia Metro Area a few days ago. With the support of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, I had the pleasure of facilitating a highly interactive workshop with about 40 colleagues on Rabbinic entrepreneurship. What’s the difference between being innovative and being entrepreneurial? In my workbook (click, complete form and download) on Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, I wrote,

 

“Innovation” is a catchphrase everywhere we look, and it is often used as a substitute for entrepreneurship, but there is a difference between them:

 

The rabbis completed a diagnostic assessment of readiness for moving to an entrepreneurial culture (p.19 in the workbook). Then, they divided into small groups to explore how to apply ten entrepreneurial practices to an idea about which they were passionate and bring to life in their communities. This group of rabbis was very diverse. But their passion for wanting to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset was a feeling they shared—and they inspired me.

 

Rabbis are too often an unfair and handy target for undeserved criticism about the state of Jewish affairs. No doubt, we’ve earned some of the criticism. On the other hand, it’s also clear to me that many rabbis are ready to turn the dial on maintenance down and turn up the dial on entrepreneurship. The dynamic of public punishment of rabbis who take risks, and their reactive tendency to then play it safe, is one that each side should acknowledge and change. And when that happens, congregants, rabbis and the broader Jewish community will begin to enjoy both the rootedness of a community and the excitement of an incubator for fresh Jewish life.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how your leadership can become more entrepreneurial, please contact me and let’s start the discussion! I’ve heard many of your ideas and it’s time for you to turn them into realities.

 

 

New Findings About Pew Study

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Simplification, Complification or Obfuscation

 
 

As an experiment, this morning I searched the terms, “Pew Jewish demographic study 2013 failure” and “Pew Jewish demographic study 2013 success” on a variety of online sites. Numbers in red reflect a larger number of results.

 

Hayim Hayim on Pew Study

What are my conclusions from this matrix?

 

 

So I’m taking my time digesting the implications of the findings from the Pew Report, A Portrait of Jewish Americans. We’re going to feel the impact of this report for a long time. While the some of the findings are unambiguous and elicit a strong emotional reaction, those reactions don’t always make for thoughtful policy debates and decisions.

 

Another reason for a little more time—sometimes, demographics and trends are destiny, and other times we can’t extrapolate the future from the present. A well-known example: if Jews in the year 1900 in America or Europe had been surveyed by a highly-respected research organization about the likelihood of creating an independent Jewish state, how many would have responded that there was a high likelihood anytime soon? Yet, here’s what Theodor Herzl wrote in his diary after the first Zionist Congress in 1897: “If I had to sum up the Basel Congress in one word—which I shall not do openly—it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish state. If I were to say this today, I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in 50, everyone will see it.”

 

Survey findings in the Jewish community are notorious for generating anxiety without clear direction (more about that in a later post….). Careful sociologists, historians and demographers are incredibly valuable in providing us with information about the present and they can extrapolate possibilities about the future. We need to pay attention to them—in many cases, if we had, we might not be dealing with some tough issues in the Jewish community today. Yet, sometimes against the logic of the data, we have to strive mightily to create the future that we want because that’s what leaders do. So unlike what happened for a variety of reasons with the 1990 NJPS and the problematic NJPS 2000-2001, a little more time for analysis, interpretation and action will serve us better as a Jewish community.

 
 

Collaborate, Communicate, Connect

Posted on: November 7th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

New, Free, Hands-on Workbook for Synagogues

 

I’ve generally heard agreement among synagogue and federation leaders that congregational collaboration is a valuable endeavor. Collaboration can lead to elimination of redundant services, cost savings, better programs, etc. So, who would argue against it? If you’ve actually planned, implemented and helped sustain collaborative synagogue efforts, you know how beneficial they are—and also how much effort you have to invest and maintain in them order to make them work!

 

synergy - UJA Federation - Hayim HerringThat’s why I’m happy to introduce you to another resource that provides you with concrete, practical tools to support your efforts around collaboration, and strategies to increase communications, connections and meaning in your congregation. This free, download is titled, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: A Guide for Study and Action, and it’s a seven step implementation guide to some of the key ideas in my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life. In addition to collaboration, you’ll find six additional units, on topics ranging from becoming an entrepreneurial congregation to preparing for the future by better anticipating trends that may have an impact on your congregation.

 

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From Network Judaism to Platform Judaism

Posted on: October 8th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

In 2000, I wrote a paper called Network Judaism, later published in 2001. MySpace was launched in August 2003 and Facebook in February 2004. While not long ago at all, it’s hard to recall that social media platforms didn’t exist. But if you were tracking possible significant trends carefully, you could anticipate the potential emergence of the networked organization. What no one was able to grasp was how social media sites would be enable societal changes of major magnitude.

 

Today, here are a few stats on some popular social media platforms:

Facebook-1.15 billion registered users

Flickr -87 million users, 8 billion photos

Pandora – 200 million registered users

Twitter – 500 million registered

Word Press – 66 million blogs

Angie’s list – 2 million users

Yelp – 12 million users per day

YouTube-500 million visits per day

 

The numbers tell a story of how rapidly socially media sites have been adopted and how embedded they are in our lives. Yet, synagogues, federations and other historic organizations have not shifted their structures to enable themselves to become platforms for people to connect socially, spiritually, philanthropically and educationally.

 

As we are now in the networked era, Jewish organizations need to shift their paradigms to a platform model. Otherwise, the great the work that many are doing around making Judaism more relevant, inspirational, meaning-saturated and beautiful will be inhibited or fail. Unlike many Jewish start up organizations that have blossomed over the last ten years, established Jewish organizations need Platform Judaism, or more accurately, platform Jewish structures.

 

What is an organizational platform (and I can highlight only a few dimensions in this space)? A platform is an enabling space for people to interact and act upon issues. An organization that becomes a platform enables individuals to self direct their Jewish choices and express their Jewish values within the organization’s mission. That is a radical shift from organizational leaders directing people how, when, where, why and with whom to be Jewish- in other words, the dominant paradigm of more established Jewish organizations and synagogues!

 

Becoming a platform is also a mindset. It means embracing the desire of individuals to co-create their experiences, opt in and opt out of Jewish life, do new things and old things in new ways-of course, within the organization’s mission. This mindset operates within the building, outside of the building, on the website, and anywhere else. It also requires a much more creative and intentional use of technologies to tell individual stories and organizational stories and a redefinition of professional and volunteer leaders’ roles, new governance models and even new professional and volunteer positions.

 

Most critically, restructuring as a platform requires a relentless focus on a compelling mission and purpose. When organizations can clearly define their purpose, they have the opportunity to help individuals activate their latent hunger for community, experientially educate them about the difference between a discrete cause and an enduring commitment and provide opportunities for deeper relationships that transcend Facebook-type “connections.”

 

Talking about organizational structure isn’t sexy. But the payoff for paying attention to it is potentially huge, enabling:

 

In part, I wrote my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, to stimulate thinking around the urgency for organizations to move to a platform model. Within about two weeks, UJA-Federation of New York’s Synergy Department and the Alban Institute will be releasing a study and action guide to help synagogues and organizations practically apply the concepts of Platform Judaism, one of the central concept in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, to their real world settings. Then, several weeks later, the Alban Institute will be publishing a companion volume to Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, with a deeper discussion of some of the core concepts of the book and even more practical resources. If you’ve registered for ongoing information, you’ll learn how you can access these new resources-one of which will be downloadable for free. If you haven’t, you can sign up here.

 

And in October, I’ll be presenting and facilitating number of sessions in Baltimore at United Synagogue’s Centennial; in Westchester, Manhattan and Long Island through UJA-Federation of New York; and the Rockland County Federation’s Rockland Jewish (Synagogue) Initiative. You can click here for more details on these presentations and if they’re in your area and open to the public, I hope that you’ll participate. Looking forward to working together with you!

 

Crossed posted on eJewishphilanthropy in a modified form.

 

 

Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: My New Book is Now Available

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Order your copy of Tomorrow's Synagogue Today on Amazon

Eternal light designers/artists: Michael Berkowicz and Bonnie Srolovitz-Berkowicz; Cover photo: Marcie Ward (Synagogue: Temple Israel, Orlando, FL)

In the not too distant past-as recently as a decade or so ago-when people wanted to do good, they volunteered for a non-profit that reflected and practiced their values. The hierarchy would acculturate them into the “right way” of doing the work. If they were reasonably competent, they would be promoted up the ranks and often contributed a lifetime of volunteer service.

But that era is over. Today, with the Internet and social media, anyone can become educated about an issue, select a cause, inexpensively raise funds, market and mobilize large numbers of people around it. Individuals can contribute a large amount of good to the world without the help of non-profit organizations and can cultivate a global, loyal base of followers, at least for a limited amount of time. In that case, what is the purpose of a non-profit organization today? How do volunteers and professionals, who understand that non-profits both serve and transcend particular causes, lead in this environment?

As I know the Jewish community well-and the synagogue best-these are the kinds of topics that I explore in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, published by the Alban Institute. They touch upon the very purpose, structure, theology and leadership of synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Are these core issues of synagogue life, as they are expressed today, adequate for a new century?

Many other institutions that were essential last century have experienced turbulence and realize that their continued relevance and existence in our global, mobile, connected environment cannot be taken for granted. Synagogues are no different. I hope that Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life will stimulate a fresh, hopeful and helpful conversation about synagogues and the transition that they must make to ensure their continued impact on Jewish life.

To pre-order your copy of Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, please visit the Alban Institute’s website (Alban members receive a 20% discount!) or Amazon.

Thank you and B’shalom,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Assess All Year ‘Round!

Posted on: September 4th, 2009 by Hayim Herring 3 Comments

It’s hard to believe it, but Rosh ha-Shanah is closing in already! In the weeks leading up to the yamim noraim, the Jewish High Holy Days, we’re supposed to be especially introspective. We’re to take stock of the year and measure ourselves not against someone else—but against the better selves we can be. (Actually, according to Jewish tradition, we’re supposed to conduct a spiritual check-up at the end of each day!) And, as we get older, we don’t only take stock of the single year that has passed. We use the time to do a more complete assessment of our lives.

I didn’t intentionally plan to be writing about assessment during this season, but I’m glad that this topic will be the focus of my postings during this time when many of us are engaged in personal self-reflection. For as it’s supposed to go for the individual person—self-examination in small and large increments—so, too, should it go for an organization. Organizations which don’t regularly practice assessment are unlikely to make it into the future. Assessment, which is another form of organizational learning, is essential to growth.

Yet, in the many years in which I’ve worked work with synagogues, I don’t recall ever being contacted about a question relating to assessment.  It simply hasn’t made it onto the list of critical capacities that synagogues should possess.

Why should assessment stand at the heart of congregational life? Because synagogue leaders, who work hard to secure resources that make congregations vital, can learn whether these resources are having their intended impact. Applying an essential insight of Peter Drucker, the founding father of non-profit management, assessment can tell synagogues if they’re changing Jewish lives and changing the Jewish community in ways which are consistent with their mission. Assessment doesn’t only drive excellence; it drives the very purpose and meaning of Jewish existence.

Here’s where I can use your help in providing information:
1. If you have an experience involving assessment, please share it.
2. What would make you want to learn more about making ongoing assessment a part of your congregational culture?

Thanks and a shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

How Much is a Good Question Worth? Everything for Your Organization!

Posted on: August 2nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring 8 Comments

This week, I’ve invited my good friend and colleague, Rabbi David Teutsch, to share his knowledge about leadership.Rabbi Teutsch, an expert in many areas, has spent much of his life on helping leaders of synagogues and other organizations understand and fulfill their roles effectively. His most recent book, which grew from a leadership development program which Rabbi Teutsch designed and co-taught, is entitled Making a Difference. A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.

In his chapter on leadership, Rabbi Teutsch writes:

Perhaps most important, when organizations are out of kilter, genuine leaders ask the questions that need to be answered in order to find out why. You will not be an effective leader unless you’ve learned to ask questions. If you don’t know what is going on in your organization and why it’s happening, you must first find out in order to lead effectively. New leaders must be willing to ask questions about projects and how they work, and about how people in an organization work together, and about almost everything else… Empowering others means consciously involving them in discussion of the questions at hand (p.11).

So I’ve asked Rabbi Teutsch to suggest the kinds of questions that professional and volunteer leaders should be asking in today’s environment. In creating that “preferable future” that I wrote about in my last post, if one of the most important functions of leaders is to ask questions, what are the three most important questions lay leaders should be asking about their congregations? What are the three that clergy should be asking? Are these questions the same, overlapping or different? Answers matter, but I happen to agree that questions matter more. I’m looking forward to hearing from Rabbi Teutsch and seeing if all of us can agree about the big questions that we need to be asking!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Renewal Efforts: Synagogue Friend or Foe?

Posted on: June 11th, 2009 by Hayim Herring 2 Comments

Rather than focusing on a particular organizational topic this week, I wanted to make sure you’ve seen a fascinating online debate about synagogue renewal efforts.

It was initiated by a post by Rabbi Gerald Skolnik on Synagogue 3000’s Synablog entitled Synagogue 3000: A Concurring Dissent; Or, Of Babies and Bathwater.  Rabbi Skolnik first describes his Orthodox childhood and education and his journey to becoming a Conservative Rabbi. 

Rabbi Skolnik writes:

It is from this vantage point that I approach the work of Synagogue 3000, STAR, and similar organizations dedicated to the re-creation and re-vitalization of the American synagogue. I understand the challenge at hand. I work with those “Jews in the pews” (or not in the pews!) every day, and know the deep sense of alienation that so many of them feel from traditional synagogue worship and ritual. They are profoundly disconnected from that world of Jewish practice that I live, breathe, and so value. But I have a nagging feeling that, though I understand the goals of organizations like Synagogue 3000 and appreciate what they are trying to accomplish, re-creating the synagogue and its worship is, at its core, a flawed enterprise. That’s why I’ve called this piece a “concurring dissent:” an oxymoron if ever there was one. I agree with the problem, but I’m uncomfortable with the solution. We are changing the davening to suit the daveners, and in so doing, we are losing something precious and irretrievable.

STAR is mentioned specifically in the post and I’ve responded fully to Rabbi Skolnik’s comments. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve offered to meet with Rabbi Skolnik in Minneapolis or New York to explore the rich, independent data we’ve gathered over the years which tell a story of positive impact that our initiatives have had on congregations of all denominations across North America.  We have a good grasp on what has been successful and what has not, and we think that it’s important to have conversations with others who share our passion for Jewish life and the synagogue which are informed both by feeling and fact. 

We are inspired by the rabbis and synagogues with whom we work – their willingness to hold on to two goals simultaneously: 

These goals can be compatible.

We encourage you to take a few minutes to weigh in on these issues.  Read the Synablog post and comments.

Rabbi Hayim Herring