Many years ago, one of my political science professors in college once remarked that there would never be a war in the Middle East during the summer. His reasoning was directly related to the desert heat.
I guess times have changed.
This summer, the news we read in newspapers, watch on TV or receive on the Internet has been pretty bad. Children crossing the border into the U.S. in Texas and California looking for their chance at the American dream and a new life; the Malaysian Airlines Plane exploding over Ukraine – and today the lost Algerian Airlines plane over Mali, and of course the situation in Israel.
Everyone knows someone in Israel. Our son Zack made Aliyah in 2006. He completed his Army service a few years ago. He has been texting me daily as sirens go off in Tel Aviv. He went to Max Steinberg’s funeral yesterday. As Zack wrote on Facebook, while he didn’t know Max, he and other American born lone soldiers were Max. I have similar feelings about Max’s parents.
This is a time for synagogues to be a focal point for community. Bringing people together to share feelings about Israel and what is going on there and as well as the other stuff that is happening throughout the world seems like a no brainer. At worship services, or a Sunday afternoon or weekday evening when people can be updated on what is going on, ask questions and share feelings.
Of course one challenge is summer vacations of both congregants and staff. The pace of synagogue life may be a bit slower during these weeks. Everyone certainly needs a vacation to take a break and refresh one’s body and mind. Being nimble and flexible is important in order in order to bring people together.
Taking advantage of a crisis might seem opportunistic. In a recent article in ejewishphilanthropy.com, Stephen Donshik cautions diaspora communities to not overdo it in terms of Israel advocacy and in particular, special fundraising campaigns. All I am suggesting is that synagogues have the opportunity to do what they do best: bring people together, explore issues, share feelings and pray together for peace and for the world to be a better and safer place for everyone.
And you are probably wondering how this relates to fundraising. Before we know it, the High Holy Days will be upon us. If congregants have a good feeling about the synagogue and how it brought people together as a community during a challenging time, your synagogue’s High Holy Day campaign efforts will be successful. If synagogues do what they have always done during the summer weeks, having a successful fundraising campaign will be a challenge.
SYNERGY-UJA Federation of New York and Synagogues Together recently produced an update to their in-depth report on synagogue database software that I shared with you last year.
While the report is certainly comprehensive and dense, two take aways I want to share with you are things we may already know: technology is evolving quickly and database technology is moving to the cloud.
From my work, I have learned that there has to be integration between your website, emails and your database. If you send out an email blast to your membership about an adult education program or even a Shabbat dinner, people should be able to register online.
One software program that demonstrates such integration is Nationbuilder. I don’t think it has Yahrzeit reminder capability or is able to keep track of religious school enrollment. Take a look and see for yourself. For synagogues, the price might entice you to further exploration.