The “Open Tent Initiative” is a wonderful way to build a strong sense of community.
Congregation Rodeph Shalom (RS) recently won an award given by the Union for Reform Judaism (the umbrella organization for all of the Reform Jewish congregations in North America) for our “Open Tent Initiative.” This initiative asks every member of the congregation to do one (or more) of the following five acts:
1) Welcome a Stranger – say hello to someone you do not know when you see them at RS.
2) Give a name – tell someone on the Membership Committee about someone who may want to join the congregation.
3) Spread the word – post upcoming events at your apartment building or your office or gym to create a buzz.
4) Host a dinner – invite a new or prospective member to Shabbat dinner at your home or invite them to come along with you to a restaurant after services.
5) Bring a friend – bring a non-member to an event, a class or to services.
We created a “story card” campaign that included short personal stories from congregants that describe how they are connected to the Rodeph Shalom community.
Our goal is to make Rodeph Shalom a very welcoming, inclusive place, where everyone feels at home. This will continue to build stronger connections among members and increase the number of visitors.
Our inspiration for this program has come from many sources, but two in particular: Dr. Ron Wolfson, our special guru, who teaches us about “radical hospitality” and the “spirituality of welcoming.”
Our second guru is Danny Meyer, the great New York restaurateur, who wrote a wonderful book, Setting The Table, who talks about “shared ownership,” meaning the stakeholders in an enterprise (be it customers, staff and owners in a restaurant, or congregants, staff, board members and clergy in a synagogue) feel that the enterprise is their own. He says, “They can’t wait to share it with friends, and what they are really sharing…is the experience of feeling loved. That sense of affiliation builds trust and a sense of being valued.”
This is what the “Open Tent Initiative” is all about, and this is where the heart of Rodeph Shalom lies.