Back in February, HCRJ completed a process of redefining our Mission Statement which you can see here:
HCRJ nurtures and supports individuals and families who want to live their Judaism through innovative programming, dynamic learning, warm spiritual worship, and meaningful social and community experiences within and beyond our walls.
The last few words were the ones we struggled with most because HCRJ is a synagogue, a building with walls. However, when you look at what we are, what we do and what we represent, no walls can contain us. When you look at our calendar, at least half of the activities take place outside the walls of HCRJ, in our community with Jews and non-Jews, members and non-members.
Now, in the middle of this pandemic, we are DEFINITELY functioning outside of our walls. The building is closed, but the staff is working full time from HOME. We are interacting as a congregation ONLINE. When we knew we had to temporarily halt normal operations in the building, many expressed sadness, anger, disappointment and fear.
But necessity is the mother of invention. This pandemic necessitated that we needed to re-invent how we function in order to meet our congregation’s needs. And this challenge has blessed us with so much opportunity:
- By the board of trustees making phone calls to each congregant, I met members I did not know in 13+ years of membership.
- Justin says he is having a lot of “fun” finding new ways to reach members. In thinking of how to re-invent a program using streaming technology, he has learned skills that will add to his programs once things get back to normal.
- Rabbi Gross, having less scheduled rabbinic responsibilities, feels “recharged” and is really learning about what is important to our different members. He is also thankful for the forced time at home for his family to do more together. No longer is he running each kid around town in different directions to after-school activities. Now there are family dinners and family walks most nights.
- Mike has found “creative energy” in having a less defined work space and hours. He feels having to lead the charge of connecting to families and youth as the face of “Live at Five” and other Facebook content has allowed him more confidence as being one of the leaders and figureheads at HCRJ. This form of communication also allows his personality to shine as he feels comfortable being spontaneous and sometimes silly.
- Melissa has gained confidence in her crisis management skills. As she worked hand in hand with the office staff to make quick and important decisions, she felt pride in how seamlessly this effort took place. Although the challenge of working at home with kids around has proven challenging at times, she loves the extra time she is spending with her family. And having found almost 3 extra hours in her day (from not having to commute) she has a lot more time to be productive!
When I originally sat down to write some sort of president’s message for the bulletin a few months back, my main focus was pride. I am proud of the hard work the board put in this year with our main goal of increasing our commitment of service to our members. We had many member appreciation, social and educational events all with the intention of increasing personal touch points with our congregational family. Many of these events took place in members’ homes, again, outside our physical walls.
I am proud of how Justin had grown our programming calendar that can stand up to a 1000-member congregation.
I am proud of how Melissa had taken on a strong leadership role and really gotten her hands around the business of operating HCRJ while not losing touch with what the members need.
I am proud that Mike was starting to put his personal touches on our youth and family programming, and was really starting to connect with students and families.
I am really proud of Rabbi Gross for allowing Melissa, Justin and Mike to grow in their leadership roles. He had to relinquish control and get out of his comfort zone in letting people come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Now, I am prouder than ever of what we have here at HCRJ. We have taken this challenge called COVID-19 and turned it into an opportunity. An opportunity to gain new skills and harness new technology. An opportunity to help our community partners. An opportunity for our staff to assert more leadership. An opportunity to find new ways to reach congregants.
As the coffee bags read… Chazak V’amatz – May we be strong and resolute!