The Days of Awe bring us the opportunity and obligation to reflect on the past year and recommit ourselves to improvement for the coming year. We recognize those things we wish we had handled differently, in a more positive or appropriate manner, and we celebrate the opportunity to start again.
This can be true not only for individuals, but also for organizations. School is back in session and our routines change to accommodate this—even those without children are affected by different traffic and shopping rhythms. The WRJ office always seems busier in the fall, whether it is gearing up for the WRJ Assembly (this year November 4-8 in Orlando, FL) in odd-numbered years, or for WRJ District Conventions in even-numbered years. And our sisterhoods typically start significant programming around and immediately following the holidays, such as launching a new Chai Mitzvah or Rosh Chodesh group. We’re all starting over in a sense, and we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our organizations for the coming year.
In 5776 will you be doing the same things you did in 5775 or have you added something new and different? “Keeping it fresh” leads to vitality, increased membership, a deeper volunteer pool, and well-attended programming. Even when we have a program every year, like a YES Fund event—you DO have one of those, right?!—we should find ways to introduce new dimensions. This could be a different venue, different theme, different program, different way to recognize an honoree. Take a road trip. Have a picnic. Host a traditional tea. Go to a football or hockey game.
When I was in Girl Scouts I learned the simple song sung in a round: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” I think the same principle can apply to everything we do: add new and innovative ideas while at the same time keeping the core of what has made us successful so far.
Women of Reform Judaism has been discussing and studying the need for change for several years. Demographic shifts, advances in technology, evolving patterns of congregational membership, and global interest from women’s groups have all been factors. We’ve sought input from across our membership, using surveys and focus groups. We’ve also talked to many women who share our values but are not members of a WRJ affiliate, and perhaps not even members of a congregation. We’ve wrestled with the question of how to retain what has made us unique for so long, and yet embrace the opportunity to enhance that identity in ways that make WRJ attractive to those women who are not yet affiliated.
Integrating all that we have learned, earlier this year, the WRJ Board of Directors approved a new mission statement:
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) strengthens the voice of women worldwide and empowers them to create caring communities, nurture congregations, cultivate personal and spiritual growth, and advocate for and promote progressive Jewish values.
At our 50th biennial Assembly, we will update our constitution to help us deliver on this mission: opening our tent more broadly to like-minded women while at the same time increasing our flexibility and responsiveness to our affiliated sisterhoods. I hope you will be there for that discussion and also to take advantage of the extraordinary programming, worship and educational opportunities that are possible when 5,000 Reform Jews come together. The Assembly offers a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts and your peers about all the elements that can help you thrive.
Within your own sisterhood, as we begin a new year, just as WRJ has done, you have the chance for reinvention: how can you build on your core identity and enhance it to invite more of your congregation’s women into your tent? As we enter the season of introspection and recommitment, embrace that opportunity!
Wishing you and your families a sweet, healthy and peaceful 5776. L'shana tovah tikatevu!