Visioning Initiative

By Fred Strober, RS President

The weekend of March 4th through 6th is an important one for Rodeph Shalom.  It represents a critical point in the “Visioning Initiative” that your clergy and Board of Trustees initiated last fall to help determine—with your meaningful involvement—the future direction of our congregation.  Our “guide” for the weekend will be Rabbi Larry Hoffman, a leading intellectual force behind many of the changes over the past decade which have kept the Reform movement relevant.

Face to Face Conversations

As part of the Visioning Initiative, we have begun a number of Face to Face Conversations about which Rabbi Freedman wrote so eloquently in the February 15th issue of the Bulletin.  The results of these conversations are just coming in but one thing is obvious: While our congregants have joined Rodeph Shalom for a multitude of reasons and expect varying things from the synagogue, all of us view our membership as a crucial component of the survival and continued health of the Jewish people.  Personally, I consider my membership to be a celebration of our heritage, a confirmation of the centrality of Judaism to my life and an expression of my optimism for a healthy and fruitful future.

What that future will look like is open to robust, constructive debate, and we very much want you to be part of the dialogue. 

Rodeph Shalom’s 215th Year

As I noted in a previous article, Rodeph Shalom has reached a great point in its 215th year.  We have recently expanded our membership significantly and our financial condition is healthy.  We have created an outstanding cutting-edge religious school experience through the Mercaz Limud.  Our educational offerings for adults attract scores of participants every week, on and off campus, and we are quickly becoming, in Rabbi Kuhn’s words, a community of learners.  We have created the first Reform-based early learning center in Center City.  And we have partnered with churches and other organizations in our immediate neighborhood to help shape the North Broad Street corridor of the future.


But despite these successes, serious challenges remain.  Hovering over us is the Federation’s population study showing a higher intermarriage rate and that the Jewish birth rate is extraordinarily low. The generation under 50 years old doesn’t feel the affinity for Israel that the older generation grew up with.  And young Jewish families feel the daily push and pull of competing interests for their children’s time, attention and loyalty.  We should justifiably be proud that Rodeph Shalom embraces interfaith couples and sees these factors not as challenges but as opportunities to help more people strengthen their connections to Judaism.  The Visioning Initiative is intended to assure that Rodeph Shalom will continue to be a leader of the Jewish community.

So, join us for the entire upcoming weekend.  Rabbi Hoffman is one of the most interesting and dynamic speakers you will have the pleasure of hearing, and he—and we—want to hear what you have to say.  Your membership in our historic congregation is a very tangible way to display your commitment to Judaism and Rodeph Shalom, and your ideas are integral to this initiative. Please help assure that Rodeph Shalom will continue to be vibrant and relevant in 2020—and well beyond—by sharing with us and Rabbi Hoffman your feelings and aspirations.  I guarantee that you will come out of the weekend with a refreshed sense of your Judaism and the future of Rodeph Shalom.