This summer, I unexpectedly learned the difference between writing the book I planned to write and writing the book I had to write. The book I originally planned to write – Tools for Shuls – was about helping synagogues build their core capacities (areas like marketing, volunteer engagement, fundraising, etc.). But the writing felt like a real chore, and not like the temporary kind of writer’s block that I’ve experienced before. With the help of family and some friends, I reluctantly recognized that there was a different book idea inside of me that insisted on getting out. If you’ve ever been possessed by an idea, then you know what I’m talking about!
So I’m now writing and enjoying it, and while I don’t have an exact name for the book yet (working title: MySynagogue.org: Visions of a 21st Century Synagogue), it’s going to still rest on the assumption that synagogues will continue to do the work of God, Torah and Israel (all broadly defined), but be guided by two premises: it’s time for them to re-examine both 1) their fundamental purposes and 2) and their fundamental organizing structures. It will be different from other books on synagogues, which still generally take the general structures and purposes of synagogues as givens, and focus on either improving them or highlighting some of the functions while de-emphasizing others.
It wasn’t easy coming to grips with this change, given how invested I was in the first idea. But at the same time, I’ll be able to incorporate much of what I’ve learned from you and my own reading into the new book project. So many aspects of the world have changed since I first started writing, but then again – we’re entering a new year, so it’s time for me to embrace it.
One last note – if you don’t want to remain on my distribution list, please let me know. But I hope that you will and more important, that you’ll continue to add your voice to a new conversation.
Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, purposeful and prosperous new year.
Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D.