On Rosh Hashanah, I spoke about a challenge of our modern society: We often fail to relate, face-to-face with family, friends, neighbors, and our fellow Jews in our congregation. Consider the effects of the geographic reality of the greater Charlotte area. Temple Beth El’s 3,300 souls live in over 10 zip-codes, spread-out over large geographic areas. Our community lives in Lake Norman, Fort Mill, Ballantyne, SouthPark, Myers Park, Dilworth, Uptown and every place in between. Our current confirmation class of twenty-three students attends twelve different high schools.
Our members are also being challenged by our modern society. We often feel enslaved to an American culture that emphasizes ambition, busyness, and superficial digital interactions. We are being pulled by powerful forces of careers and immersive technology and long commutes – and, frankly, trying to do more with less resources.
For Judaism to continue living, we must be willing to ask: What kind of living tradition will our generation build for the future? How will we confront, head on, the very real issues we are experiencing? And how will we build it in partnership and relationship with one another?
We don’t have all the answers. But, here’s what we do know: We need to listen to one other. Why? Because regardless of the fundamental shifts in our society, we cannot forget that humans are, by our very nature, social creatures. From prehistoric camp-fires to our kitchen tables, it was in our homes and neighborhoods and in our synagogues, where we formed relationships that added substance and support and meaning to our lives. And in these settings, great ideas – world altering ideas – emerged.
Our congregation’s leadership has joined 14 dynamic congregations in what is called a “Community of Practice” through the Union For Reform Judaism. The Community of Practice met in Chicago earlier this month and will continue to participate in monthly teleconferences over the next two years. We will learn from experts in the field, focusing on how modern society is affecting our lives, and re-imagining our Jewish future.
We plan to create an engagement initiative for empty nesters and baby boomers. But we need your help, regardless of your age or your involvement in congregational life. We are beginning with the creation of a base-line survey that will help us understand our congregants’ experiences across all demographics.
I respectfully ask you to fill out the survey. It won’t take long to complete and the information you share will be invaluable for our team of lay-leaders, staff, and clergy as we plan the listening phase.
Later in the Spring, we will explore the findings of the survey in greater depth. We plan to conduct a listening campaign for baby boomers and empty nesters. Both the survey and the listening campaign is based on the premise that each of us has desires and interests. Each of us is facing the dynamics of our modern society in similar and different ways. And each of us is a central element to the living faith community that we continually build, together. When we listen to each others’ stories, we realize that we aren’t alone and we can imagine tackling the hardest issues head on, knowing that there are others marching with us towards the possibility of tomorrow.
I thank you, in advance, for your time.