President Bruce Ives' May 2017 Column -- Thoughts from the Parking Lot
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I pulled into the Beth Am parking lot to pick up a kid from a Confirmation class service project. Good thing I was just picking up because there was no place to park. This wasn’t the usual Saturday morning congestion as Torah Study gives way to B’nei Mitzvah, nor the extra Friday evening crunch when we have a popular guest speaker in addition to the typical crowd. Although it was a Sunday, this wasn’t the Sunday Program crowd getting out from T’fillah. This particular traffic jam resulted from a combination of an operatic performance, a toddler Purim party and Beth Am Women hamantaschen baking.
While all this traffic was a little inconvenient, it’s actually a great problem to have. It’s evidence that we have a thriving campus and thriving congregation full of energy and activity across a broad range of ages and interests. Naturally, Beth Am leaders kvell just a bit, taking pride in the engagement and enthusiasm of our congregants at a time when many Jews are disengaging from temple life. But it’s also in our nature to worry a bit, too. Do we risk becoming complacent in the face of all this hustle and bustle? Will we rest on our laurels and avoid the questions we should be asking: are we doing enough to serve all our congregants – to engage them, to grow our community and sustain high levels of participation?
It was these hard questions that led our Board to ask a group of thoughtful congregants to take a deep look at the threats to Jewish life at Beth Am and bring back ideas to help us stay ahead of the curve. This team, dubbed Project Micah, did great work and generated a long list of recommendations related to worship, learning, community and justice.
My predecessor, Loree Farrar, organized our Board around these pillars and led us to develop visions and plans for each. We’ll work to improve our efforts across these pillars in the months and years ahead and we’ll continue to scan the horizon for new threats and opportunities. That work will be the subject of our Board retreat in June – listing the toughest challenges we face and drawing on the impressive expertise we have in our congregation to meet those concerns. We welcome your thoughts and ideas in this effort – you can send me your input at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a continuous journey of improvement, and as we meet in June we recognize we are part of a chain, following a long tradition of innovation at Beth Am as we go from strength to strength. I just hope we can all find parking.