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Creating a Culture of Belonging

12/30/2022 09:01:28 AM


Tami Raubvogel, President

I recently went to a workshop called The Culture of Belonging, offered by the Jewish Federation. The facilitator shared a framework designed specifically around belonging which, she said, could transform Jewish organizations and communities. She explained that having a Culture of Belonging ensures that everyone in a group or organization feels seen, valued, and part of something bigger. She clarified that belonging does not happen by chance; for an organization to have a culture of belonging it requires intentional design and new habits and norms. 

This made me wonder how CBJ has intentionally created a culture of belonging this past year. On the surface, we did pretty well. We had a successful Gala honoring Rabbi Ezray. Our high holidays were back to almost pre-COVID numbers, and our weekly Shabbat power hour is consistently attended by many regulars. We also have new members joining every month. It is clear we have had success bringing people back into the building.

But according to the workshop, belonging goes deeper than just people attending events. If we want to grow a community where everyone feels valued and seen, then we need to create opportunities for smaller groups to get together to engage in activities that are meaningful and important.

For me this looks like many different activities: 

  • A Tikva Shabbat where small groups of people have facilitated conversations about the Torah portion or Jewish values
  • A book club group meeting to discuss the latest novel that they all read
  • People working together to serve food at the Maple Street shelter
  • A group of young professionals meeting for a Shabbat dinner
  • Attending the shiva of a congregant 

It doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy a large event like the Gala, but if we want to change the culture of our organization, we need to strategically think about how to create more opportunities where people feel needed and included. 

As you all know, we are in the middle of the process of hiring a new Executive Director. This time of transition is a perfect opportunity to look at our organization through a new lens and maybe develop some new ideas, new directions, and new habits.

In thinking about the new year, I have been reflecting on our most recent holiday; Chanukah. Chanukah means dedication. It is said that after the battle, the Maccabees reclaimed the holy temple and re-dedicated it to the service of God. This idea of rededication is the theme that I will call upon to set the tone and intention for my next year as president. 

I will be looking for ways that we can rededicate ourselves to our community and make it truly a place of belonging and connection for everyone. I hope you will join me in renewing our commitment to a deeper culture of belonging for our entire congregation.

Thu, September 28 2023 13 Tishrei 5784