Rethinking Summer at the Synagogue

I don’t think I was totally right in my blog last week that offered a fundraising toolkit for the High Holy Days.

There were no problems with the Toolkit. If your congregation follows any of the 5 ideas I suggested, you will have positive results. The important thing here is to have a plan and to do something in a proactive way.

My self-doubt relates to the beginning of the blog where I talk about summer as a transition time for synagogues. Here are the 3 sentences I have been thinking about all week:

“This is also a transition time for synagogues. Summer gives pause from religious school and intense adult programming, as everyone seems to be on vacation at some point. When schools start, congregants are back and its time to engage people through personal contact, programmatic offerings and worship experiences.”

An article I read in Kveller written by Maurie Blackman who is a parent of a young child caused me to rethink- and expand – my view about summer at the synagogue. Yes, clergy and synagogue staff do need some time off. And congregants, too! We all see summer as a time to get away from our everyday lives and recharge our batteries through vacation. Clergy and all of the synagogue staff are no different.

Should there be such a distinct break for synagogues in terms of worship and programming between the period of September to June and the summer months of July and August? The answer to this question is what I have been thinking about.

Maurie raises the point about what this might teach her child. Religious School and Shabbat Worship are a big part of a family’s life from September to June. When school ends and summer comes, there is not the same connection – or sense of community – with the synagogue during July and August. Should Jewish learning and attendance at Shabbat worship just stop because it is summer?

Summer is also the time when people who are new to a community are checking out synagogues. Shouldn’t this be a time to showcase what is great about our synagogue communities?

I am not sure we want congregants to think that what is happening at synagogue during the summer is unimportant. Or that Shabbat Worship is of a lesser quality in the summer than at other times of the year. To use marketing terms, “a lesser product”.

What happens at your synagogue during the summer?

3 comments on “Rethinking Summer at the Synagogue
  1. Summer off! HA HA!! This is the season for the executive director, with membership renewals, closing the books for the fiscal year, new budget to pass and ALL the preps for High Holy Days!!!

    So you ask when does the ED recharge the batteries??– The day after Yom Kippur I am off to visit grandchildren in Israel! or other years come December off to Florida to get the chill out of the bones!
    Shana Tova!

  2. Ted David says:

    Hi David

    This is from Ted David at Congregation Beth Yam in Hilton Head. Just wanted to let you know that we do most of what you suggest but in a somewhat different way.

    We dont have a HH appeal. We have a most of the year campaign that we call “Friends of CBY” or the “Friends Campaign”. We start around the HHD with 3 versions of the same letter — to last year donors asking for an increase, to prior donors who did not give last year and to members who have not donated in the past. We follow up with other letters during the year and in March begin one-on-one follow ups to prior donors who have not yet donated. We have a tele-thon on a Sunday morning in late April. We also recognize in our bulletin all donors, with additional recognition for those donating over $1000, those who increase their donation by 20% or more and new donors, unless they request no additional recognition. We have a very nice non-solicitation cocktail party for donors over $1,000 and “plant” a paver in our garden area for donors of $2,000 or more.

    Seems to work well for us.

    Ted

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