High Holy Days: Getting Ready

Are the High Holy Days really ever late or early?

This year, they really are later. The Jewish calendar has an extra month this year, Adar II, to help put everything back in sync with the lunar calendar. The Gregorian calendar, January to December, does this every 4 years, with February 29th, adding just one day rather than an entire month.

Regardless, the High Holy Days are coming. You still need two hands to count the weeks. But maybe this counting format means that when it the holidays are 6 or 7 weeks away, it is a good time to be sure that all of your plans are in place.

Similar to how we all prepare at our individual High Holy Days gatherings with all the food preparations, table settings and worrying if you have enough chairs, this is the time when planning has to take place by synagogue staff and leadership to insure that the High Holy Days run smoothly.

Some questions:

  • What can you do on your website and on your Facebook page to create a spirit of welcoming so that the High Holy Days are seen as a special time to your congregants?
  • Do the materials you are sending out either via email or snail mail about the High Holy Days convey a positive, upbeat, exciting, “happy to see you” message, or are they more about “if you want your tickets, be sure that 1/3 of your dues/annual commitments is paid up”?
  • Do you have a fundraising plan in place, whether it be direct mail, emails, a pitch from the Bima, or a combination of any of the above? Studies have shown that this is the time of year that Jews make contributions.

And Jewish organizations know this, which is why many of you will be receiving numerous direct mail and email appeals beginning around Labor Day, all the way through Yom Kippur in October (in addition to all of the political fundraising letters and emails we will be receiving as well).

People who will be with you for the High Holy Days are in a synagogue frame of mind. Take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to talk about all of the wonderful things your synagogue does. And don’t be afraid to be honest and say that the funds collected through dues and annual commitments only goes so far. The synagogue depends on contributions from congregants as well.

And as a former boss once told me, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.

  • And what about security? Synagogues want to be welcoming. Many allow anyone in the community to participate in High Holy Day Worship. How do you be warm and welcoming and yet convey to people that wherever you are worshiping is a safe environment?

As I have said before, I don’t want to be an alarmist. But congregants need to know, via the Holy Day packets and subsequent emails, that safety precautions are in place.

I am sure there are other things that need to be on your High Holy Day checklist. This is certainly a good starting point.

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