Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

 

An Addenda to Yehuda Kurtzer’s “Minding the Gap: A Primer for Jewish Professionals and Philanthropy”

Posted on: July 24th, 2017 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Originally published in eJewish Philanthropy by Rabbi Hayim Herring

A few observations on Yehuda Kurtzer’s fresh rethinking of how to build a more mature 21st Century relationship between American and Israeli Jewry:

1. On the gap in understanding one another’s realities: ask Israelis living in Israel of a certain age (40-something’s and older) if they recognize their country today as the one in which they grew up or to which they emigrated, and ask American Jews in the same demographics if they recognize the America of today as the one in which they were raised. You’ll likely receive the same response: “No!” Internally, across our respective political spectra, we have experienced significant social, religious, economic, educational, racial and political upheavals that are difficult to absorb. If each of our respective communities are having difficulties in understanding shifts in our own primary environments, how can we possibly understand the other’s culture, even if we are frequent and fluent visitors in the other’s community?

 

This point can provide some restraint in immediate and deserved anger of American Jews toward the current and future Israeli governments, and help us think more strategically about how to advance remaining shared interests – of which there are still many. For example, I think that Israeli Knesset Members who support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s broken promises that affect American Jews should be invited to Jewish federations. Let them experience first-hand the anger and pain that they have caused, see the full diversity of the American Jewish community and understand that we are not stereotypes, to be used as pretty props when it’s convenient, and objects of ridicule when it’s not.

2. It’s useful to delineate distinct categories of “boundary-crossers” and “boundary-dwellers,” that is, individuals who spend most of their time in one location (America or Israel) but spend or have spent considerable time in the other. Some examples, and they are not intended as a comprehensive list, include:

  • “Jewish professionals” and “professional Jewish volunteers;” that is, paid professionals and volunteers who work in Jewish institutions that are focused on Israel
  • Philanthropists
  • Israeli journalists who cover American Jewry and American journalists who cover Israeli Jewry both in the Jewish and secular press
  • Individuals with close family and friendship ties in our respective communities, who visit one another frequently, and remain in touch digitally on a regular basis between visits
  • Jewish think tanks (and there are very few)
  • Alumni of grassroots communities, like ROI Community, an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The value in distinguishing categories of boundary-spanners is that if we want them to become more valuable assets in broadening our understanding of differing cultural realities and identifying shared work, we first must respect their diversity. Top-down, hierarchical meetings are appropriate in some cases, in many more, cultivating networks will be more successful, and sometimes, a hybrid model of hierarchy and network is needed.

3. While we don’t have to “privilege” a “failed” metaphor as American and Israeli Jews as “family,” we can explore other approaches in testing its value before completely discarding it. For example, “family” signified one tightly-defined, exclusive structure through the better part of the 20th Century, but today, “family” is a much more expansive and inclusive concept. Why hasn’t the concept of “family” vanished? Because many people still feel an emotional pull to be a part of a family, with all its complexities.

Families, in their varied, contemporary iterations, are still crucibles in which powerful bonds of love, empathy, embrace of difference and responsibility can sometimes be forged. Families have a cast of characters. Some generously take upon themselves the roles of “connectors,” and never forget a birthday, convene a family reunion and update “the family” with an annual newsletter; others move in and out of their roles as “family member” unpredictably; and still others never miss an occasion to snub “the family.” Some family members remain distant from one another for years but ultimately reconcile. Even if they have little time left to reset their relationships, they positively change the trajectory of the next generation of family relationships. But when family ties are permanently severed, and sometimes that is necessary, there can be deep wounds with unforeseen consequences that are transmitted across generations.

Kurtzer is correct – manufactured nostalgia for American and Israeli Jews as “family” won’t help strengthen the kinds of relationships that we need today and can even be alienating because people know a charade when they see it. But rethinking the metaphor of family more expansively and realistically on the collective level is a valuable endeavor worth the struggle. It’s another way of opening our eyes more widely to the massive transformations that we’re experiencing, identifying barriers that we might chose to live with for the time being for the sake of “family,” and distinguishing between the truly unbridgeable differences in our respective communities, and the ones that initially present themselves as unbridgeable divides but are only differing manifestations of shared essential changes on deeper reflection.

Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D., is an author, consultant and nonprofit organizational futurist who holds a doctorate in Organization and Management. A “C-suite” leader, Hayim has worked with hundreds of congregations and nonprofits on issues including leadership, organizational foresight and entrepreneurship. His most recent publications are Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World: Platforms, People, and Purpose, with Dr. Terri Elton (2016) and, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish (2012).

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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When Does Debate Cross a Line from Health to Pathology?

Posted on: May 13th, 2014 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

I’m not looking for some nostalgic Jewish past when we were all unified. That would be fiction, not historical fact. (Item: think we’re not unified now? Remember that when the Romans besieged Jerusalem in early 70 C.E., extremist Jewish factions burned storehouses of the little food left in an effort to provoke Jewish moderates into war against the Romans and out of potential negotiations). Debate, discussion, dissent and disagreement are in our DNA — and for the better. These attributes help us hone our ideas, challenge our assumptions, and collectively and progressively refresh Judaism.

 

But like much of America today, we have divides, not spectrums:

 

• Open Hillel/Safe Hillel
• J-Street/AIPAC
• Religious/Secular
• In-married/Intermarried
• Mainstream/Start Up
• Growth/Decline
• Modern Orthodox/Extreme Orthodox
• Boomers/Millennials

 

hayim-herring-great-divide

 

Divides create a mentality of, “you’re either for us or against us,” while spectrums of belief can help focus energies on areas of agreement. Divides turn people off, while spectrums bring people in.

 

Note that most of these divisions aren’t new, although their labeling has been updated in some cases. But I think that social media have heightened the question, “At what point will dissent impair our ability to act collectively? Why might it do so? Because just as the Internet bestows the blessing of instantly spreading great ideas, it is equally potent at spreading disdain for one another. (Sometimes the web feels like a 24/7 global la-shon ha-ra or gossip factory.) And ill-will may linger well after any specific incident and turn into hardened opinions and stereotypes.

 

The minor festival of lag b’omer is celebrated this Sunday. Legend has it that a massive number of students of Rabbi Akiva died because of internecine fighting several weeks before that time, as Divine punishment for lack of mutual respect. They forgot that they needed each other–that’s my interpretation. Clearly, even a “big tent” has its limits. But if we want a dynamic and healthy American Jewish community, we’re going to have to cool the rhetoric we use in speaking of differences, and warm the embrace within our respective belief system.

 

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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Introducing Hayim’s Blog (Formerly “Tools for Shuls”) + Special Offer!

Posted on: July 25th, 2011 by Hayim Herring 14 Comments

Image courtesy of yourdictionary.com

I’m incredibly excited to launch my new blog!  I placed blogging on hold so that I could focus more attention on my book and building my business.  And, I came to recognize that my Tools for Shuls blog was now too narrowly focused.

So much has changed in the Jewish world since I first started blogging a couple of years ago! The economic recession’s impact on the Jewish community, the fractured relationship between parts of the American Jewish community and Israel, the level of civil discussion within our own Jewish community-just to name a few!  “Tools for Shuls” inaccurately suggested by its title that some quick fixes in synagogues could address these issues, so resetting my blog, while launching the new website for the Herring Consulting Network, seemed timely.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, what can you expect to see that’s different? And for those who are new, what is this blog all about? The general focus is on developing leaders for the synagogue, Jewish communal and non-profit world who want to create the future that they hope to see, instead of waiting for the future to happen to them. For me, that’s a good working definition of leaders: people who dream big about tomorrow and create their tomorrows today.

You can expect two posts approximately every 10 days. One will relate to aspects of leadership. The other will ask you to comment on trends and issues related to your synagogue or organization. I envision the blog as a space for collaboration, where people can exchange ideas and experiences about leading organizations, and where they can pose questions to a diverse audience. So let’s start the conversation by asking:

Special limited offer:
All those who comment on this week’s question will be entered into a drawing for a free consulting session!*  There will be three different levels awarded:  One three-hour session, one two-hour session, and one one-hour session.  The drawing will take place on August 17, 2011, and winners will be notified via email.  So go ahead, share your responses by commenting below and you might win!

I look forward to resuming the conversation with you.

B’shalom,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

 

*Consulting sessions will be given via conference call and will be scheduled according to Rabbi Herring’s availability.  Sessions are non-transferable and not redeemable for any cash value.

Excellence or Perfection Paralysis?

Posted on: February 6th, 2009 by Hayim Herring 5 Comments

Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great… Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for the good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good–and that is their main problem.

These are the opening, memorable words in the now classic business book by Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap….and Others Don’t. Collins reminds those of us in the non-profit world as well that we should never simply strive to be just good as an organization but always aspire to become great.  Always aspire toward greatness—is that realistic? I believe that it is—in fact, the answer should be a resounding “yes” in almost everything that happens in a non-profit organization, especially in a religious institution. After all, faith-based organizations rest on the belief that they can model a microcosm of a more ideal community.  Therefore, we should substitute the achievement of just good for great as our overall organizational benchmark. 

If you’re still not convinced of the merits of the aspiration toward greatness, think of it this way: in developing a funding request for an innovative program, would you strive to develop a good proposal or a great proposal?

However, there’s a big difference between reaching for greatness and waiting for perfection.  While people know that perfection is unattainable, they sometimes develop perfection paralysis–the need to polish every word and idea, the desire to anticipate every contingency related to change.  Understandably, individuals involved in nonprofit work need to be very diligent about wisely spending donor dollars and volunteer energy.  But much time can be wasted in trying to create a perfect change process.  Therefore, it is better to achieve 80% of your desired results with excellence than 100% of your desired outcomes with the impossible goal of perfection.  You will accomplish much more, sustain the energy of volunteers and staff and maintain the interest of funders. 

So here’s where I would especially like your opinion: assuming no additional funding, as greatness is an attitude and attribute that isn’t for sale, what would it take to turn your synagogue or organization from a really good one to a great one?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Support, Support, Support!

Posted on: January 22nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring 1 Comment

In order for any kind of change effort to succeed, you have to do more than provide a clear, positive verbal and visual message about the intended change. You also need to help the people who are on the front lines of change become successful.  While it is important to set goals and expectations about the intended outcomes of the change, it’s equally important to support them with the resources to make the leap from doing things how they are currently done to conducting business in a new manner.

Why? Because those responsible for implementing the change are likely to feel incompetent for a period of time, as they let go of the old (which they were good at) and embrace the new (for which it will take time to gain proficiency). During this transition, they need to have the technical support to help them gain mastery of a new skill or process, and the emotional support to let them know that they have permission to ask questions, to make mistakes and to feel frustrated as they transition from how things were done to how things will be done.

For example, let’s look at the adoption of new technologies.  People have different levels of comfort with technology: as a general rule of thumb, the younger the individual, the greater the comfort level. When congregations decide to invest in new technologies, like advanced phone systems, computer software or even photocopiers, they budget for equipment but may not budget sufficient funds for training staff on the new equipment.  Moreover, board members may have unrealistic expectations about the timetable for efficiencies that the new technology promises.  As a result, feelings of frustration on the part of staff and lay leadership occur, causing some to question the need for the investments or the abilities of this staff.  So remember, when investing in any kind of change process, allow time and support for people to adjustments to their new circumstances.

I’d like to hear your story about trying to innovate in your congregation.  What were you trying to achieve that was different?  In hindsight, do you feel that an appropriate amount of support was offered?  What would you do differently next time?  Thanks in advance, for sharing your insights!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

We Know Change is Hard—But Why?

Posted on: December 15th, 2008 by Hayim Herring 4 Comments

When asked why change takes so long, we’re often given the proverbial answer, “Because change is hard.” Okay—we all know that change is difficult. But that answer doesn’t get us very far in understanding how to facilitate change. It’s the follow up question, “Why is change so hard?,” that is more fruitful because it generates insights about the root difficulties of change.

Researchers suggest that change is so hard because people carry a picture of the present inside of their heads. This picture blocks the view of what the future might look like. As we live in the present, our assumptions, behaviors and mental images of the present exercise a strong grip on our imaginations and shield against new possibilities emerging in our minds.

That’s why so many advertisements feature “before” and “after” pictures of individuals who have undergone some kind of cosmetic intervention.  Think of the difference in the power between hearing that someone named Jim has decreased lost 50 pounds and then seeing two picture of a shirtless Jim, one at 200 pounds side-by-side with the new Jim at a svelte 150 pounds. No words can dramatize this radical picture of change.

Or, let’s take an example from a building campaign. Why is it that architects will build models of buildings with capital improvements and that members will create some sort of graphic allowing people to see how far they have to go to reach their financial goal? It’s because pictures enable us to glimpse the future in a way that words cannot.

One of the strategies for increasing the ability of people to visualize change is to literally give them a picture of what change will look like. Otherwise, no matter how frequently you try, their picture of the present will override a picture of a new and improved future.

Here are two items that I’d like to hear from you about:

  1. Can you relate a story about how visual images have worked to support change in your congregation or organization?
  2. What other explanations do you have as to why change is so hard?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Pick the Low Hanging Fruit or Reach for the Stars?

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Hayim Herring 18 Comments

Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want to create some kind of organizational change then don’t stretch far at first– reach for the “low hanging fruit.” The “wisdom” in doing so is to create trust in the group involved in the change process and confidence in their ability to make a difference.  The “low hanging fruit” approach is group practice for the real change to come. The benefits of this approach are clear but its deficits are rarely discussed. These include:

The opposite approach to change can be described as think large, move quickly and start small.  This approach focuses on practicing imaginative thinking, seeing results soon but in manageable projects. I call this the “reach for the stars” approach.  Some of its disadvantages include:

Clearly, the choice of the approach will be driven by many factors, including congregational culture, tolerance for risk and leadership abilities.  While there isn’t really a right or wrong approach, my experience has been that synagogues take the “low hanging fruit” approach more often. So I’d like to hear your observations on a few questions:

  1. In what situations have you successfully used the “low hanging fruit” approach over the “reach for the stars” approach?
  2. Have you ever been in situations where you felt that one approach was preferable to the other, but you went against your gut feeling for other reasons?
  3. Given some urgent issues facing the Jewish community, do you think that we need to engage more frequently in the “reach for the stars” method of change?

I’m looking forward to a lively discussion—thanks in advance for contributing to it!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Welcome to the Tools for Shuls Blog!

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Hayim Herring 2 Comments
You’re invited to contribute to a book about synagogues, churches and other non-profit organizations. The working title is Tools for Shuls: A Guide to Makeover Your Synagogue. (Shul is Yiddish for “synagogue”). The Alban Institute is the publisher, and the book should be in print about a year from this spring or even sooner. While the title of the book has the word “synagogue” in it, anyone who cares about improving the impact of nonprofit organizations potentially has something to offer. By posting on this blog, you will expand the knowledge of how religious organizations can elevate their performance and still maintain their spirit. And, if I use your idea, you will be credited in the book.

I’m looking forward to a rich conversation on the blog. I plan to post an entry every week. Some of the issues that I hope to explore include:

  • introducing innovation in a setting which is geared for preservation and adaptation
  • appreciating the value of assessment as a tool for synagogue learning and growth
  • increasing the number of synagogue volunteers and improving their experience
  • digital dreaming, that is, using technology to extend the reach of synagogues.
  • These are just a sample of some of the topics that I hope we can explore together. Please share your wisdom by commenting on these posts and help to make synagogues and other faith-based organizations even more vital today.

    Throughout the almost 25 years that I have been a rabbi I’ve worked in and around synagogues, and have been inspired by many synagogue clergy and volunteers. I also know how incredibly complex synagogues are and how clergy are often insufficiently prepared for executive leadership and management roles. Volunteer leaders would enjoy a more satisfying experience if they also had some additional tools and knowledge to help them fulfill their synagogue roles. This book is an effort to fill in some of those fundamental gaps. So please share your wisdom and help bring your aspirations of your synagogue or church in this areas to life!

    If you haven’t already read my first post, Pick the Low Hanging Fruit or Reach for the Stars?, please scroll back up to read it and then share your thoughts.

    Thank you,

    Rabbi Hayim Herring