Posts Tagged ‘congregation’


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!



A Passion to Serve

Posted on: June 25th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

This post is personal because it concerns my family – not my genetic family, but my spiritual family.  I’m referring to congregational rabbis (although I also feel that anyone who serves the Jewish community in a professional capacity is a part of my family). While some colleagues remain secure in their jobs, many are feeling anxiety about their future. They watch others who have had their positions eliminated or reduced.  And a good number of rabbis, from what I’m hearing, are unsure about what to do to create a more secure congregation, or to prepare for a future in which there might not be one available for them. People who study for congregational life feel called by God. If they can’t serve a congregation, how can they fulfill a calling which possesses them?

I empathize with my colleagues because I have been through a number of professional transitions. In some of them I have felt a greater sense of calling, in others less so. I understand the feeling and perception that only a congregational setting allows for that kind of ongoing intensity of Divine purpose. In addition, schools and other Jewish institutions where rabbis have traditionally found employment are experiencing similar downsizing, leaving congregational rabbis with even fewer options.

I’ll be participating soon in a program where this issue will be explored. Clearly, congregations are not going to disappear. But the congregational rabbinate is experiencing the same kind of structural change that most industries and professions are feeling. So I am turning to you for ideas about how rabbinic colleagues can prepare for a future which may hold part-time congregational work, rabbinic work outside of the congregation, or a job in the for-profit or general non-profit sector.

Rabbinical training is a precious experience, taking between five and six years. While rabbis don’t seek congregations for financial reasons, they still have financial obligations which they must meet: repayment of academic loans, the cost of day schools and Jewish camps, giving tzedakah… and the list goes on. Rabbinical education is a tremendous resource for the Jewish community as no other kind of education offers similar depth and breath. In this time of tectonic shifts in the Jewish world, we have to make sure we have enough rabbis to provide guidance and leadership based on the legacy of our tradition, but they also have to know that they have a reasonable chance to find employment.

So what advice can you offer rabbis who dreamed of serving in the congregational world for their entire lives, but now find themselves in a profession which is undergoing a profound transition?  Do you have personal experience to share?  This is definitely a question that requires our collective wisdom!

Thank you for your help.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

image: articulatematter

Coming Soon: A Social Media Site That Rates Your Synagogue

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by Hayim Herring

Shalom to all! I’ve invited one of STAR’s media maven consultants, Elana Centor, to post her thoughts about social media trends which are likely to impact upon synagogues. Please read her post and share your reactions, which her provocative post and thoughtful suggestions will engender! Thanks, Elana, for being a guest blogger on Tools for Shuls!  -Hayim

With a tag line of Get the real scoop on doctors, clinics and hospitals, is a place for consumers to share their personal experiences. While the majority of comments are positive, about one-third are negative. Piloted in Minnesota, and now a nationwide community, is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield. That’s right: an insurance company is sponsoring a blog where its group members can weigh-in on doctors. Isn’t that an “interesting” way to influence doctors?!

Now substitute rabbis, synagogues and religious school in that tag line and you have a peek into the very near future. Get the real scoop on rabbis, synagogues and religious schools.

If there is one trend in Web 2.0 that most synagogues are not prepared for, it’s the proliferation of what Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li coined as Groundswell

“A groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other rather than from traditional institutions.”
Bernoff and Li say the groundswell has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works–one that most traditional institutions see as a threat.

Just in case you think you have some time before the groundswell impacts synagogue life, think again. Introducing, which bills itself as, “The premier online service for finding and reviewing congregations that you help create.”  Shulshopper, which is currently in a beta release, is part of the nonprofit independent Jewish organization Matzat. While there aren’t many synagogues reviewed on the site right now, that could change any moment and probably will. And, even if Shulshopper doesn’t go viral, some other synagogue social media site will appear without notice and it will allow people to share their experiences at your congregation. You can count on it– not every comment will suggest you have a warm and welcoming culture.

Since the question is not if, but when members, former members and visitors will share stories about your congregation in an online community, what will be your strategy? How will you respond if someone writes a negative comment? How will you even know if someone has written about you?
Here are three things you can do to prepare for the synagogue groundswell.

  1. Develop a Social Media Communications Plan
    Every synagogues needs to have a social media communications plan which includes strategies on how the synagogue will respond to positive comments, negative comments that are nasty, unfair or untrue as well as negative comments that have validity. Create the plan when the emotions of the comments are not part of the equation.
  2. Become Digital Detectives
    Digital Detectives are people who investigate what is being said about their organization on websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social media sites. It’s not as difficult as it sounds thanks to Google Alerts – a free feature of Google that can be configured to send you an email alert every time your synagogue, rabbi or key members are mentioned on a website or blog.
  3. Spend Time Doing Some Online Listening
    In many ways, participating in social media is like immigrating to a new country. It has its own culture, customs and language. That’s why it’s important to spend time observing how things are done in social media before you try to actively participate in it.  By taking the time to listen and observe you will represent your congregation in an appropriate and respectful manner.

Elana Centor is Chief Strategist For Digitalwagontrain a training, coaching, consulting firm helping individuals and organizations achieve their goals faster, smarter, easier by using social media tools.  Elana posts regularly on her blog Funny Business.

Image from Flickr.comLong Zheng

Rabbi – Where’s the Spirit in Spirituality?

Posted on: April 21st, 2009 by Hayim Herring

A rabbi’s spiritual leanings (or lack thereof) ultimately determine whether or not a congregation achieves some dimension of spirituality. (Please refer to the last post for a rich variety of understandings of “spirituality.”) The congregational context in which the rabbi works will either contribute toward the creation of a spiritual community or help to undermine it.  In other words, while the rabbi must lead in the creation of a spiritual community, ultimately it is the partnership of a core group of congregants and rabbi who help to develop and sustain this kind of community.

Most congregations are structured to sap the spiritual energy of rabbis (and cantors for that matter). Think about it: when was the last time you remember a congregant saying to a rabbi, “Rabbi, your SQ (spirituality quotient) could use a little more zip. Have you taken your spiritual temperature lately?”

What are some of the structural barriers in congregations which conspire against the creation of a spiritual community?

The conversation on the prior post on dimensions of spirituality was incredibly rich, and thanks for your insights. So please respond to the following questions (in addition to any other comments):

The next time, we’ll focus on the barriers that clergy erect in fostering spirituality, so stay tuned!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Photo from  Orbital Joe