From TBA President Laura EJ Rose

“…redefining our why

Simon Sinek is a British/American author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant who, in his 2009 best seller, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” presents readers with the idea that behavior is best driven by a focus on why we are doing things rather than what we do. He has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership – starting with the question, “Why?”

“There are leaders and there are those who lead,” explains Sinek. “Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with ‘Why?’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

Rabbi Hayim Herring’s, “Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today,” calls for congregational leaders to stretch their imaginations about how 21st Century synagogues can become vibrant centers of Jewish life and about how synagogue leaders should begin to chart a new course toward achieving that goal. In October of 2012, TBA President of the Board, Benita Marcus, distributed Herring’s book to Board Members and invited Rabbi Herring to visit TBA. Her mission was to inspire discussions about creating a roadmap for helping TBA lay leaders steer our Congregation into the future. Benita charged our congregational leaders to begin the visioning process by asking ourselves, “Why?”

In his presentation to the Board, Rabbi Herring documented trends in American synagogue life, including decreasing membership and increasing expenditures. He described today’s demographic changes (e.g., intermarriage, age of affiliation). He discussed the implications of these trends on synagogue life and the importance of congregations remaining relevant to the Jewish communities and Jewish individuals and families in the 21st Century. Rabbi Herring recommended that our synagogue make an effort to renew our vision, “a process which often strengthens a members’ connection, commitment, and involvement in the institution.”

That invitation for self-reflection was echoed three years later in an October 2015 post for the Union for Reform Judaism’s institutional blog. Amy Asin, URJ’s Vice President of Strengthening Congregations, identifies several themes vital to congregational success. She explores how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change. “All congregational leaders are looking for the magic formula to success, the one that will ensure that their members are happy, engaged, and Jewishly fulfilled, and that their budgets are balanced.” Like Rabbi Herring, Asin challenges congregations, “to go beyond doing what you’ve always done and to begin instead to understand what you’re trying to achieve in your sacred community.”

Then TBA President of the Board, Tom Temin, responded to that call to action by introducing “TBA Vision 2020.” Like Asin and Rabbi Herring, Tom asked for Board members to take a creative look at the ways our Congregation faces challenges as they relate to affiliation, affinity, and financial revenue models. And in the midst of wrestling with those concepts, the Board of Directors found itself facing the complicated dynamics relating to our Congregation’s transition to new leadership.

Simon Sinek asserts that, “you will never figure out how until you are clear on why.” And so now, as our Clergy Team, Professional Staff, and Congregation experience the “honeymoon” of our transition, it is essential for us to being to ask ourselves that question. To initiate the “TBA Vision 2020” project again, we must engage TBA's leadership and our membership in redefining our why. Our Mission must reflect our purpose as an organization and who we are today, and our Intention should be that all of our TBA endeavors will align with our Mission, have measurable goals, and be accountable for results.

“By starting with a why that truly matters to congregants and prospective congregants, and is deeply rooted in our heritage as Reform Jews, today’s congregations can put themselves on a path to strength and success,” Asin suggests. Our Congregation needs to take a new, innovative approach to why in order to ensure that our community thrives now and for the next generations.