Much of the work of a Board of Directors is behind the scenes. A balanced budget. A smooth hiring process. Wise input for a hardworking taskforce. But every now and then, working with our insightful Program Team, we do something that is a little more visible. This is one of those times.
Over the last year, your Board and Program Team have been thinking about the future of Beth Am. Not just for next year, but for the next decade or two. How will we educate our children, and ourselves? What will worship look like – and how can we bring a deeper link to the transcendent not only into our sanctuary, but also into our everyday lives? How will we grow our connections as a community? Where will we bring justice to the world? What is happening in the Jewish landscape today and in Silicon Valley that we need to address?
The result of this year of study and discussion is a set of vision statements around the four pillars of our congregation: Community, Worship and Spiritual Living, Learning, and Justice. We also looked at how we run our congregation, ensuing our operations support our values and mission. Here are highlights of our work:
Community. Beth Am strives to be a community where members are strongly connected to one another, where we can share the truth about our lives – our authentic selves and deep questions. At Beth Am, we help each other when we are strong, and seek help from each other when we need it. We recognize the divine spark in every individual, and help each of us become our best selves.
Worship and Spiritual Living. Over the past ten years, we have reinvigorated our worship services with participatory song, new prayer books, and inclusion of simchas within the community. Our new statement expands our vision to include spiritual activities in the home and in nature as well as in the sanctuary. We support meditation and contemplative practice on our treasured Shabbat and throughout the week. We explicitly welcome skeptics and seekers, and recognize that there are many paths to Jewish spiritual growth.
Learning. At any age, Jewish study provides us with intellectual challenge, moral guidance, spiritual enrichment, and the opportunity to form deep and sustaining friendships. Learning at Beth Am is participatory and inclusive. Engaging Jewish education for our children creates the foundation for their Jewish lives; for adults, understanding our tradition helps us deal with real issues that we each face.
Justice. As a congregation, we promote justice in all aspects of Jewish life: we work toward a better world in community, during worship, and through study. Through both significant signature projects, ongoing service to those in need, and in response to emerging injustices, we seek to make a measurable difference. We join together with those within and outside our community in order to multiply our impact.
Operations. In addition to the four pillars of our work, our vision for the management of our congregation is aligned with our values and allows us to achieve our mission. We are financially sound and operate in a way that secures our long-term future. We are a premier employer of outstanding clergy and staff – a place where people feel supported, encouraged, and challenged to do their best work. Our facilities are beautiful, flexible, and meet our evolving needs; our technology supports us in our mission.
Each vision statement is aspirational, and yet grounded in our current work. Each provides a beacon to allow us to evolve from strength to strength. Besides guiding the work of the Board and Program Team, these statements will be available online in the near future, so that anyone who is interested can learn more about us.
Our prophets consistently called on us to lift our eyes from the mundane tasks and burdens of the day, to imagine – and then to build – a beautiful future. Indeed, at the end of each Jewish service, after our prayers of thanks and request, our final prayer, Alenu, outlines a shining vision of the future: a world of justice and peace in which all people are united under God. In each case, whether over the years or over the week, the bright vision sustains and inspires us. It is my hope that this vision for Beth Am will provide similar inspiration.