Assess All Year ‘Round!

Posted on: September 4th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No 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

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