It’s a Learning Process by Dr. Laura Bernstein, Executive Director

Plagues.  Plagues.  And more plagues.

This week’s Torah portion, Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16)  begins with Moses and the eighth plague of locusts. It continues through the plague of darkness and the death of the firstborn, and concludes with Pharaoh allowing the Israelites to leave Egypt.

Have you ever thought about how G-d came up with these particular plagues?  Why so many plagues?  Why did it take 10 plagues before the King was finally compelled to release the Jews?  Why didn’t G-d just start with the 8th, 9th, or 10th plague?  I wonder if the answer is as simple as not always getting everything right on the first try.

Perhaps this story gives us permission to take action quickly when confronted with issues and to change course as we learn from our decisions and their impact.

Like other synagogues across the nation Temple Beth El is grappling with big issues like geographic dispersion of our congregants, competing demands of our constituencies, widespread assimilation, disunity among denominations, anti-semitism, and planning for the long-term sustainability of our congregation. These are not simple issues. They are complex and require deep and broad thinking.

Over the past year, Rabbi Knight and I have been using the 10 principles of design thinking (see below) in many of our discussions and work with committees. Design thinking is an iterative process that allows us to test assumptions and modify our approach as we learn and grow.

It’s an exciting time at Temple Beth El. We are working toward building a culture of experimentation where we try new things, learn from them and in some cases fail in order to succeed. Interested in being part of the learning process?  Contact me to see how you can get involved.

Interested in learning more about design thinking and how it applies to synagogue challenges? Check out the article Thinking Big and Failing Fast by Rabbi Sarah Bassin, Associate Rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.


Design thinking…

1.       Is action oriented
2.       Supports change
3.       Focuses on the human
4.       Develops foresight
5.       Is dynamic and iterative
6.       Promotes empathy
7.       Reduces risk
8.       Creates shared meaning
9.       Relies on an adaptable process
10.     Combines logic and creativity

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