From TBA President Laura EJ Rose

Continuing to break down congregational silos at TBA will lead to better engagement and the creation of broad-based teams of volunteers and professionals representing multiple voices of the community.

As Temple president, one of the things I’ve learned is that a lot more goes on in Temple Beth Ami than any of us lay leaders can know about individually, much less lend a hand to. Thankfully, our congregation encompasses many committed and talented individuals. Much good happens from their willingness to give their time and effort. In November, I wrote about the incredible number of volunteer groups that work both inside and outside of our Temple building. I asked you to imagine our synagogue as a massive center for voluntarism in the community.

With that image in mind, I want to tell you about some of the ways volunteers from different Temple-sponsored groups work together on projects both congregation-wide and in our community. During this past year the Tikkun Olam Committee and the TBANS Parent Committee coordinated a collection for car seats to benefit refugees, the Women of Temple Beth Ami and Next Dor invited the Community of Action to present its “Nothing but Nets” initiative to participants in the 2016 Women’s Seder, the Inclusion Committee worked closely with TBANS and Machane staff to refine the synagogue’s Food Allergen Policy, the Brotherhood coordinated its Sunday Bagel Bar with Machane staff, the Community of Action and the Tikkun Olam Committee worked together to support our neighbors at South Lake Elementary School, Machane and TBAHigh students participated in the Tikkun Olam’s and Sisterhood’s “Stuff-a-Duff” campaign, and our Transition Committee’s work touched every corner of our community with its work to facilitate Rabbi Pokras’s transition to Temple Beth Ami. The list goes on and on.

This kind of collaboration enables us to break down walls and allow “cross-pollination” of ideas. Congregants get to know each other, gain exposure to other areas of the synagogue, and, perhaps, even pursue involvement in undertakings and programs that they never considered before. In Virginia Anderson and Lauren Johnson’s book, Systems Thinking Basics, they define systems thinking as a holistic and big-picture view of the whole. It is recognizing the interconnections between parts of a system and synthesizing them into a unified view. This thinking, along with a unified focus, can be applied across our own congregation to encourage collaboration, team work, and, ultimately, the accomplishment of common goals.

In contrast, silos are the artificial boundaries we put up to accomplish personal goals and to keep others from interfering with our progress toward those goals. A silo mindset produces groups that fail to share information, resources, or decision-making. Why are silos a problem in congregations? They encourage personal, departmental, or committee agendas at the expense of alignment around a common mission.  Silos diminish the capacity of the whole. Many congregations like our own recognize this mindset, and work toward relationship-building and holistic planning. But it takes energy to sustain a collaborative culture.

Continuing to break down congregational silos at TBA will lead to better engagement and the creation of broad-based teams of volunteers and professionals representing multiple voices of the community. Weekly, I am inspired to see congregants of widely varying experiences and skill sets who step forward to use their individual talents to support Temple-sponsored efforts. Thinking of congregation-wide activities through a different lens, disposing of internal silos, and searching out new collaborations will lead us to better planning, promoting, and implementation of events and programs.

Like many temple boards, Temple Beth Ami relies on the dedication and effort of committees (standing, ad-hoc, or task forces) to move our strategic objectives forward. And our committees have historically been a good place for congregants, lay leaders, clergy and staff to work together, turning ideas into action. One of my goals this year as your Temple President was to help create connections between our working Temple Committees and the Temple Board.

At each of our monthly Board Meetings this year, Board Members participated in discussions and brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders from our Temple’s working committees. Seeking to vet new ideas and raise awareness of volunteer efforts, the Board began its meetings by gathering in small discussion groups with representatives from some of our Congregation’s many working committees: Joan Ochs and Dan Rosenstein for The Transition Committee (July), Seth Shapiro for The Religious Practice Committee ( September), Judi Goozh and Ruth McLenaghan for the Inclusion Committee (September and June), Andra Abrams for the Endowment Allocation (October), Mark Joffe and Joanne Brodsky for the Tikkun Olam Committee (November), Debbie Jacobs and Michelle Freedberg for the Community of Practice (December), Kate Wernick and Sarah Weinstein for the TBANS Parent Committee (December), Lauren Bogart and Sue Fialkoff for the Hospitality Initiative (February and March), Roz Katz and Barbara Ranhand for the Temple Library (March), Evan Krichevsky for TBA Cares (April), and Jackie Manis for the College Activities Program (May).

Ultimately, with a sustained effort, and regular interactions, my hope is to assist our volunteers in strategically aligning their goals and activities. That is, by asking committee representatives to “Tour the Board’ each year, Board Members will gain first-hand a deeper understanding and connection to committee work. As ideas for programming, fundraising, and event planning are vetted throughout the year, we can all share direct knowledge of the good work being done and the plans being made in other parts of the synagogue. Together, we will be able to recognize the interconnections between the many parts our congregation and synthesize them into a unified, holistic community.