Solel’s Field of Dreams

by Robbin Botnick, April 25, 2019

Every month as the deadline for the Monthly Shammas approaches I get that somewhat overwhelming feeling of panic, what can I write about this month that might be meaningful? I give full credit to Arliene Botnick who has written hundreds of articles and Rabbi Pollack as well, because while there are so many possible topics, you really have to reflect upon what has happened over the last month at Solel and in the world and how to take that information and perhaps share it with the community in a creative way while trying not to repeat anything that you or any of the leadership has written about before. This is a rather daunting task and this month, to try and find inspiration, I spent some time looking at articles written by President’s in other congregations, and I found some common themes, they tended to be around financial stability, programming, congregational involvement and volunteers or lack there of.

At Solel we face many of the same challenges, which are sometimes expressed as complaints or frustrations or just overall issues that need to be resolved. Of recent, most of the issues brought to my attention are around getting more congregants engaged and how do we ensure financial stability for the future. I will start with engagement. But, what does engagement mean? For some, engagement is reflected in how many people attend services each week and who can volunteer to be an usher or do announcements or bake for the oneg. For others, it is who is participating in the many events that happen at Solel each month. Some of the complaints are that there are not enough opportunities for people to spend time with one another, other complaints are related to a lot of effort being put into planning various events and activities but people not showing up to participate in them. From the “Field of Dreams” one of my favourite movies, Kevin Costner heard the voice telling him, “If you build it they will come”. Unfortunately, at Solel we spend a lot of time building but we are a little hit and miss on the who will come part.

As the world changes so does the view on organized religion and belonging. I believe that at the heart of Solel is the need and desire to have community, to have a place to pray together, educate our children and connect as Jews. Community is not created by the Rabbi or the Educator or the President or the Board. Community is created by the people who want to create connections, those who recognize that you only get out of something, whether it be a course you take, or a work out at the gym or your Synagogue, what you put in. The more effort you put in the more you get out and the more everyone in the community puts in the more exponentially the entire community gets out. So, if you want more engagement, how do you get it? If you want more people at services, spend some time talking to your fellow congregants and friends and encourage them to join you for a Friday night or Saturday morning service. If you want more programs, volunteer to help plan a program. If you want a different spiritual aspect in the service, come in and talk to the Rabbi about things that you would like us to try. If you want different experiences for your children at Bet Sefer Solel, talk to Arliene and consider becoming a Bet Sefer Solel teacher. If you want to see the congregation grow and thrive, help with ideas around outreach. If you would like to see us doing different things at Solel, please tell us what you want, and how you think we could execute on them, and then perhaps what you can do to help.

If you want more financial stability, consider joining the finance committee or coming up with suggestions on new financial commitment models or fundraising campaigns or what you can do personally to support Solel. Perhaps the biggest issue/concern raised right now at Solel is around our financial future. We are starting to attract younger families, which is fantastic, however, our overall congregational population is aging, this is not unique to Solel, many synagogues and churches face the same challenge. The reality is that many of our larger financial supporters are heading into retirement and may not have the same financial means that they had during their working years. This means that we all must look at what Solel means to us and determine how we are going to ensure that our future remains bright. We, of the younger generations, need to look at what we want for the future of Solel and determine how we are going to get it. I am confident that the more we all collectively are able to put into Solel, time, effort, intellectual capital, financial contribution, the more we will all get out of Solel.

We can solve both the engagement challenge and the financial challenge if collectively we commit to solving them and we each put in what we want to get out.

“If you build it they will come”


Filed under: President's Message

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