Warm and Welcoming –But Pay Your Bill!

Some of us often posit that Jewish holidays – particularly the High Holy Days, Hanukkah and Passover – are either early or late. If Rosh Hashanah (“RH”) falls just after Labor Day, I often hear comments about the holidays being early. If it falls nearing or in October, it’s late.

But according to the Hebrew Calendar, Rosh Hashanah is always right on time.

There are lots of opportunities to connect with congregants between now and RH. There are some challenges in terms of summer camp and vacations and people being away. But whether people have gathered for summer services or you are utilizing email and social media for your High Holy Day “warm and welcoming” communications plan, there is much that you can do to create the atmosphere of special feelings that will encourage congregants to attend worship and other stuff throughout the year.

I have a pet peeve about the Big Envelope that comes to your house from the synagogue with “High Holiday Information” stamped or printed on the bottom left or right hand corner. You know the one. The High Holy Days are going to be great. There is a form for remembering loved ones at Yizkor. Some information on various types of services (adults, family, teens). Maybe some info about babysitting.

And then there is the paragraph that you have to be current in your dues obligations in order to receive tickets.

What about the family who is new to the area? Some High Holiday worship is open to everyone. Will they hear the High Holy Day choir and band? The rabbi’s sermon? The various items that comprise High Holy Day worship about which you associate with what makes your synagogue great.

Don’t get me wrong. The synagogue is a business. A unique one, but a business nonetheless. The need for money to pay the bills – for clergy and other staff, special security for the High Holy Days and throughout the year, HVAC, utilities – is pretty real. Maybe what I am talking about here is semantics and attitude. Send me the package with all of the High Holy Day information and present the synagogue as being a great place, warm and welcoming, a second home – however you want to come across in a positive fashion. Maybe in this particular package, you don’t detract from this by telling people they have to be current in terms of their financial obligations.

The High Holy Day package with ticket information is actually a remnant of the past. With technological advances in terms of emails and pdfs, do we need to kill a couple of trees to connect and share information with the large majority of congregants? That is another question for another day.

Send out an email a week before “the package” with information about financial obligations and requirements. And even a week after “the package” is sent, just a few sentences as a reminder. And as the High Holy Days approach, call people who are not even close to being current. The more personal the outreach, the better.

My point is really that you should be warm and welcoming, and proud. Just keep information about financial obligations separate.

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