A tapestry of generations—that’s one of the taglines our Temple Emanu-El WRJ Sisterhood has used to reflect the importance of including women* at every age and stage in our sisterhood. Our members range from recent college graduates to mothers with school-aged children to working women who squeeze volunteer hours into busy lives to full-time volunteers who generously share their life experiences and expertise. There is something magical about women supporting women, sharing their knowledge, and offering friendship and counsel. We are women who study together, play and laugh together, worship together, and work together toward the goals of tikkun olam – making the world a better place.
Like many women’s groups, we have sometimes struggled to engage women with young children. Those of us in leadership know that WRJ is a dynamic organization for women and joining these groups enables connection with other like-minded women. But, that might not be obvious to the busy moms amongst us. We have learned that it often takes more than an email to reach this demographic. Recruitment needs to be customized to the individual and her interests. Here are some strategies that have worked for us.
Know Your Stuff – Become familiar with WRJ YES Fund projects and other WRJ initiatives in addition to being well versed in what WRJ is doing in your congregation and district. My sisterhood gives significant grants to our Early Childhood Center and Religious School. Both my sisterhood and WRJ District give camperships to URJ camps in our region. We also provide inclusion grants and support a women’s retreat.
Make it personal - Invite a young mom to join you for coffee. Listen and learn which issues are important to her. Chances are WRJ is addressing these issues in some way on a local, district, or North American level, and she won’t know unless you tell her. Hearing this in conversation with you will often be the impetus needed to get a new member engaged.
Make it easy - Find out what talents she has to share. If she’s great at photography and social media but has no time for meetings, no problem! Carve out a job that she can do from home. We have had several women manage our social media posts and other aspects of publicity on their own time. Another woman single-handedly organized a fabulously successful honey fundraiser while her children were in preschool.
Make it meaningful - Parents of young children are often looking for mitzvah projects for their families and such opportunities are limited. Our sisterhood has hosted several successful sandwich drives for a local homeless shelter. Families enjoy the chance to make sandwiches together, and children delivering sandwiches to collection sites provides opportunities for priceless photos for the temple newsletter.
Make it fun – Boost sales in your Judaica shop and WRJ membership by offering a discount to members on a specific day prior to Hanukkah. Promote free photo opportunities with a giant inflatable dreidel or a Hanukkah-themed green screen; you will draw families. A shop stocked with child-friendly Hanukkah menorahs and other fun merchandise can turn shoppers into members by engaging in conversation as they shop. Friendly members roving with iPhones can really add value and turn customers into engaged members. Try snapping photos of little Jake with his new basketball menorah, and ask the family to send a picture of him lighting the first candle; a connection is then made. Follow up with a text or phone call to maintain the new relationship. A montage of these photos will be a crowdpleaser in the next newsletter.
Try these strategies, and let us all know how they work for you. As we connect with each other and create a pathway for younger members, WRJ continues to be a dynamic organization. We are truly stronger together!
*Our Sisterhood welcomes members of all genders.
Rachelle Weiss Crane is Sisterhood Co-President at Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, TX. She is also Vice President of Philanthropy of the WRJ Southwest District and a member of the WRJ North American Board