Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Some Things are Meant to Be—and Maybe Now is Your Time….

Posted on: January 22nd, 2014 by Hayim Herring


Last April, I read an Alban weekly newsletter about a collection of essays on Protestant seminary education, called Keeping the Faith in Seminary Education. This volume was edited Ellie Roscher, a Protestant, female millennial with personal seminary experience. Having worked for many years on rabbinical and continuing Rabbinical education, I was naturally intrigued by the topic. And I also know that Protestants and Jews have some of the same struggles in creating vibrant religious communities, so a collaboration on this kind of project would likely generate some new ideas. I didn’t know Ellie, but thought that there was no downside to tracking her down and learning more about her project. Yes – I admit that I was already thinking then about perhaps editing a book with her on rabbinical education.

Hayim Herring-WordCloud

Coincidentally or providentially, it turned out that she was moving back to her hometown in Minneapolis. Shortly after she arrived, we met in person. I can’t say that I expected that she would agree at our very first meeting to be involved in co-editing and writing a part of a book. But I guess that some things are meant to be, and not only Ellie, but her publisher, Andrew Barron of Avenida Books, also quickly came on board.


So here is your chance: especially in light of the Pew Study, if you are a rabbinical student, rabbi, or educator of rabbinical students or rabbis, we want to hear your unmediated voice on the nature of rabbinical education. Please click here to find out how you can potentially contribute an essay to a volume that needs to be written—I hope that I’ll catch you at one of those moments of interest, just like Ellie’s volume found me. And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.


Thank you, Rabbi Hayim Herring


P.S.-for Ellie’s version of the story on our collaboration, visit her blog. And—first we wrote our own recollections of our meeting and only then did we read one another’s posts. Uncanny how similar and still distinctive they are!



The Bookends of the Collaboration Continuum: Independence and Integration

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 by Hayim Herring


Cross-posted to eJewishPhilanthropy


by Rabbi Hayim Herring and Debra Brosan


Synagogues and Jewish organizations always have choices about their destiny – to be proactive or reactive, to be strategic or let environmental factors take over. This applies equally to the collaboration continuum, the range of options that congregations have to remain vibrant by creating partners with other synagogues or organizations, or even ultimately merging or being absorbed into another congregation.


In our last post, we identified some emotional factors that inhibit collaborations that seem logical but never materialize. In this post, we want to define more specifically the options that congregations have along this continuum, so that leaders can recognize that they have options for remaining vital and impactful.


First, a synagogue must explore its risk level associated with independence and integration, the collaboration continuum’s bookends. Most collaborations fall within an organization’s administrative, operational and programmatic function, as well as the possibility of sharing space.



How to Minimize the Risk of Network Unweaving

Posted on: May 6th, 2013 by Hayim Herring


In continuing to think about conversations related to “network weaving” in organizations, I remembered Homer’s epic classic, The Odyssey. The heroine of the poem is Penelope, who has been separated from her husband, Odysseus for twenty years while he was away at war. Pursued by suitors, Penelope promises to remarry once she completes weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’s elderly father. She weaves the shroud during the day, but as a stall tactic, every night for three years she undoes a part of her work until her deception is discovered. She’s a weaver by day and an un-weaver by night.


“Network weaving” is a term in vogue in Jewish organizations that refers to increasing the quantity and deepening the quality of social relationships. The emergence of this term reflects a paradigm inversion. Don’t expect community to grow top-down from activities, but out of organically fostered social ties. (You can learn more about network weaving by searching eJewishphilanthropy’s website.) But these efforts are likely to be threatened by two significant roadblocks: governance and mission. Why?



Incomprehensible: My Reaction to Cyd Weissman’s Blog Post

Posted on: March 11th, 2013 by Hayim Herring

I read a blog post by a friend and very talented colleague of mine, Cyd Weissman, titled, “Surprisingly East to Quit My Synagogue” with disbelief. Perhaps I could have understood the response of her clergy if it was 2000 and not 2013. But while I try to be respectful of my fellow klei kodesh (clergy), their response to Cyd’s request is incomprehensible to me. And I say this as a former congregational rabbi who, already in the mid-1980s, was working in congregation that already had multiple happenings on Shabbat morning.

I’m only going to list three reasons why I find their response so baffling:

I hope that the leadership of the congregation will reconsider its stance.  I am sure that their efforts where well intentioned, but their logic is flawed.

More Than Cosmetic Changes On the Way

Posted on: February 11th, 2013 by Hayim Herring
More Than Cosmetic Changes On the Way

photo from:

My father was recently hospitalized with a serious infection (and is thankfully much better). Ever the cheerful spirit, he told me the following joke (sorry, Dad – I’m taking a few liberties).


A man became very ill, very suddenly, and was rushed to the hospital. Tragically, the doctors were unable to save him and he died. His soul went to heaven, and pleaded before God that his time shouldn’t have come yet. He had too many things left to do. God listened to his arguments and said, “Okay – you’re going to live another 25 years and 8 months. Back to earth you go!”


The man recovered fully and when he left the hospital, decided that he was really going to live this time around! First, he went to a hair stylist and dyed his gray hair black. Then, he had Botox injections to remove the wrinkles from his forehead. Finally, he decided that he was going to have the nose job that he always wanted. As he was walking out of the plastic surgeon’s office, he stepped off the curb and was hit by a bus. He was killed immediately and his soul went back to heaven. The man was distraught, and demanded to know why God had ended his life after he was promised another 25 years and 8 months. God turned to the man and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognize you!”


When I started Herring Consulting Network several years ago, I had a general idea about what I hoped to be doing. Over the past couple of years, with new experiences and new training, I have a much more clear direction. During the next several months, in addition to completing a resource guide and toolkit for Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, I will be devoting time to revamping my website to reflect a more focused, future-oriented approach that I’d like to bring to congregations and Jewish organizations. It’s time for us to get ahead of the curve instead of playing “catch up” to yesterday’s innovations.


Because of some time pressures, I’m going to take a break from blogging. When I return, you’ll still recognize Herring Consulting Network, but you’ll also see the fruits of my planning for how to continue to help synagogues, organizations and nonprofits provide greater relevance and impact into the future. Look for a new look-and a new direction!

Downsize Institutions and Upsize Imagination

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Creative brainstorming

Photo: opensourceway, on Flickr

Kudos to Dr. Stephen Windmueller for his piece last week in eJewishphilanthropy, entitled to the unfolding of the third Jewish revolution. Windmueller provides us with a rich framework for analyzing major historical turning points in Jewish communal life, including the one that we’re experiencing now. I want to focus on one of his points – the one that preoccupies many in Jewish communal life today.

Money: who isn’t concerned about having sufficient financial resources to maintain or launch high-quality programs, needed services or simply pay for administrative overhead? Windmueller says it best when he writes, “the American Jewish system is a $9.7 billion annual enterprise that cannot be sustained as a result of the current economic realities.” (We should ask if it should be maintained, but that’s another issue!) It is no surprise that many of our institutions are being downsized. That’s a tough reality for those who are experiencing it.

Precisely because we have to downsize our institutions, we have to upsize our imaginations. All the money in the world wouldn’t solve many of our challenges if we continued to do things in the same way. So this transition can challenge us to think about how to do critical work differently and better. It can also help us prioritize the issues that will have the greatest impact so that we can focus on them and sunset less essential activities.

Upsizing our imagination is one strategy for making our way through the transition successfully. Another is embracing the idea that it is possible today to do more with less in some cases. And that’s a fact that is easy to forget in the current economic environment. For example, it used to take thousands of dollars to build a quality website. Today, a pre-teen can build a website without effort. When we wanted access to a book or periodical, we used to have to spend time going to the library. Today, the library is at our fingertips. One of the ways to do more with less is to fully exploit the advantages of time and cost savings that technologies enable.

I don’t want to minimize the pain that many are feeling as our Jewish community undergoes a major revolution. While this transition may cause momentary paralysis, I hope that it will ultimately energize us as we move further into the 21st-century.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Stop Meeting Malaise and Board Boredom

Posted on: March 1st, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Tapping a Pencil

From Rennett Stowe On flickr

If you’re a staff member of an organization or synagogue, three dreaded words are “weekly staff meeting.” If you’re a board member, you may not have the same feeling about attending scheduled board meetings, but being at one is probably not on your Top 10 favorite things to do. Why do we allow ourselves to suffer often from board boredom and meeting malaise?

Board and staff meetings are unfulfilling because they are unproductive. Updates that could happen electronically take up too much meeting time. Information that only a couple of people need monopolize staff discussions. Even when meetings are run efficiently, they are not necessarily productive. That’s because essential, strategic issues that require multiple perspectives are not discussed. Instead, meetings become focused on the here and now–here’s how we did it the last time, and now we’re going to do it this way (which is often only incrementally different). The result—people at meeting develop inventive surreptitious ways to check email on their smart phones.

So here’s a challenge for you: cut your meetings by 30% on a trial basis of 6 months. That decrease can take different forms. It can mean shortening existing meetings by 30% or decreasing the number of meetings on your calendar by that number.  I can’t guarantee it, but it’s highly probable that you will be much more happy and productive.

For more ideas on how to make the most of meetings, you can read my new book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

Your Record is Now Permanent

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Footprint in the sand

Photo by manuel cazzaniga on Fotopedia

The death of Whitney Houston is a very sad event. From scenes of her singing in a gospel choir as a teen to recent television interviews-so much of her life has been laid bare in public. There is an incredible amount about her that is permanently available to the world.

This intense week of coverage made me reconsider a phrase from the Rosh ha-Shanah Musaf prayer: “Under Your gaze, all hidden things come to light…For nothing is forgotten before the throne of Your glory, and nothing is hidden from Your eyes” (Musaf Amidah, Koren Sacks Rosh ha-Shanah Mahzor). This is what we say about God, but now we, too, have the technology to make so much of our lives available to the public for anyone to view.


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

Posted on: July 25th, 2011 by Hayim Herring

Image courtesy of

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.


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.

How “Getting a Life” Opened My Eyes to New Ways of Jewish Learning and Teaching

Posted on: October 22nd, 2010 by Hayim Herring

On my birthday last August, my wife decided it was time I take up a new hobby.  (Or, as she said, “It’s time you get a life.”) I had been threatening for years to start playing trumpet again, which I played for several years pre-braces, so we’re talking a long time ago. Guess what she bought for my birthday? A trumpet! And now I’m taking lessons and enjoying it tremendously. But….I still managed to find connections between trumpet playing and Jewish life.

My teacher introduced me to an online music education service called SmartMusic. I’m just learning how to use it, but as soon as I subscribed, I realized how apt it could be for Jewish learning and teaching! As a SmartMusic subscriber ($36/year), you can access a rich library of exercises and music for all band instruments. The music appears on your screen and as you practice or play, your computer can record you. Then, a playback of the music with corrections appears on the screen, so that you practice and improve.

SmartMusic doesn’t, however, replace a teacher. Among other things, a teacher can share stories about his or her teachers – that is, give you an oral tradition – and help you move from technician to musician. As it turns out, SmartMusic actually allows teachers to customize lessons for students and enables students to submit MP3 files of their lessons to teachers, so that they can monitor their progress.

My question: is anyone aware of a similar type of site for increasing your knowledge of Jewish learning and ritual?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

P.S. If you’re in a hotel room in some city, and you hear a struggling, novice trumpet player, it’s a safe bet that it’s me working from SmartMusic. Oh….and Mom-thanks for making sure that I received some music education when I was a kid!

image Seph-Outline (Joseph Ruano)