Audacious Hospitality: Clues on Welcoming Everyone!
Did you know that the Reform movement executive leadership includes a V.P. of Audacious Hospitality? (Cool concept, right?) Her name is April Baskin and she’s featured in the latest episode (Episode 90) of the Judaism Unbound podcast. Download the mp3 file here and give it a listen.
The Atlanta Jewish Community study indicates that we have work to do in this area — and what April makes clear is that it’s not enough to “welcome” newcomers with words, which perpetuates the “us/them” divide — i.e., we are welcoming you. It’s vital to create the conditions for new people to participate, and feel wanted, not merely welcomed. Institutions think they’re doing a good job when they train dedicated teams of greeters, but April explains why it’s a much deeper dive. As a Jew of color, she also challenges us to open our tent flaps wider and embrace Jews who don’t look like us, along with folks who cross our thresholds on their own or through interfaith relationships.
Resources on Audacious Hospitality here: https://urj.org/audacioushospitality
You Too Can Host a Front Porch Conversation:
At an informal dinner conversation for The Front Porch about two weeks ago, Jodi and Liz joined used the opportunity to talk about Jewish Atlanta and The Front Porch. One topic we talked about was the aspects of Jewish Atlanta people were most proud of. What resonates with you? What doesn’t? What’s missing?
Here’s what this group said they’re most proud of:
- 44 temples
- Being leaders in the aging community
- Stories and thought process that of Jewish founders like Irwin Zaban that created Jewish “architecture” such as JCC, synagogues, etc.
- 1,000 Atlanta alumni attended high school in Israel
- 2019 Maccabi Games coming to Atlanta
- Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta
- Jewish Atlanta is a meritocracy
- How much of Atlanta is driven and paid for by the Jewish community
- Community environment of the day schools
- Outreach of BBYO
- Entry points for Jewish Atlanta—academic, social, religious, philanthropic
- Emerging interfaith programs and innovation like PJ Library, Honeymoon Israel and Jewish Kids Group
- Young Jewish people want to be here and are a growing population
- The Front Porch
- Day schools
- Jewish Film Festival
- Mental health and wellness programs
- Kids in public schools with strong Jewish identities
You too can hold a Front Porch conversation. If you need some materials or some ideas for hosting, contact Jodi, firstname.lastname@example.org or Liz, email@example.com
Innovation Platform Holds a Fishbowl Discussion:
Three innovators (who are also Jewish) joined members of the Innovation Platform to help us discern the conditions under which innovation thrives, and to join our conversation about Jewish innovation.
Watch the conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRVk-1rlaTA
Listening Forums: What’s Coming Into Focus
The MJCCA Listening Forum October 23rd had a dynamic group of 32 people! While we had a strong Hadassah contingent present, a diversity of topics came into focus during the Open Space portion of the meeting.
One thing in particular that struck to me was that people expressed the lack of appreciation for giving their time in service — as volunteers in planning programs, participating on boards, helping out, etc.). It sounded like there was a great opportunity for organizations pay attention. While some folks have the capacity to give generously in money, others give their time, and still others give both! What mechanisms and/or small shifts can organizations can adopt to strengthen community through appreciation of others?
Everyone was thoroughly engaged in conversation, and, I believe, came away feeling like it was time well spent! I know I did!
— Uduak Bassey
Preschool/Supplementary School Directors and Youth Leaders Listening Forum:
A Listening Forum for Preschool/Supplementary School Directors and Youth Leaders was held at Temple Sinai with 26 participants. Their conversations focused on topics related to their work in preschool, supplementary school and youth groups spaces. Their key messages for Front Porch participants said that there is a need for:
- Communal spaces and resources that promote collaboration, support programming and encourage innovation. Currently operate in competitive silos with limited resources.
- Centralized information regarding community resources and activities across the lifespan.
- More education and engagement opportunities for Jewish educators.
- Centralized information resource listing who to talk to about what across Jewish organizations with regularly updated information.
- Meeting students where they are and find ways to integrate Judaism in a meaningful way.
- Educational opportunities across the life cycle.
- Reaching people who are not engaged, promoting “big tent” Judaism. Connecting all people to all events at all synagogues.
- Thinking outside the box in terms of how activities and Jewish communications are marketed.
- Need to rethink membership model, move away from one size fits all
- Financial support for experimentation and innovation beyond technology
Important to know:
- There is still a need for synagogue life.
- There is innovation in synagogues people don’t know about. Concern synagogues are thought of as irrelevant when there is still so much going on.
- There is a difference between being affiliated vs being connected.
- Cost and being welcoming are important factors for engagement.
- Grant process support innovations like JKG but not innovation in supplementary schools and synagogues. Process is not fair.
October 23, 2017
McKenzie Wren’s piece in the Atlanta Jewish Times (October 23, 2017) really captures the spirit of the work we’re doing on The Front Porch.
- What does an Orthodox mom want and need?
- What does a gay senior want and need?
- What does a gender-non-conforming teenager want and need?
- What does an interfaith family want and need?
- What does someone with disabilities want and need?
In other words, what does a mixed multitude of people need from their Jewish institutions? Read the full article here.
Empty Nesters Listening Forum Weighs In:
A Front Porch Listening Forum with so-called “Empty Nesters” may have provided clues to some new language when talking about older adults. “Call us Boomers+,” said one participant. “We need to distinguish ourselves as active seniors,” said another. More comments: “There’s tremendous talent in our community of retired adults – they can teach, lead, mentor.” “We’d love to have a curated list of Jewish and secular cultural and educational opportunities across the community.” “Don’t ghetto-ize us – we like to do things with all age groups. Two biggest issues – a need for more centralized communication across the community, and an interest in co-housing options that allow a mix of ages to live together.
Talking About Transformation at Work
Federation professionals have been reading and discussing a book that’s become one of The Front Porch’s foundational texts: Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations, by Mike Uram. The book looks at how U. Penn Hillel created a parallel organization, the Jewish Renaissance Project, in addition to its already successful campus Hillel, but gave it a unique identity totally separate from mainstream Hillel. The radical strategy of simultaneously pursuing two student audiences – Empowerment Jews (the existing Hillel franchise) along with so-called Engagement Jews, those on the sidelines of Jewish life, is explored in the book. Today’s discussion focused on the traps we fall into when we measure the success of events by just counting the number of attendees. We agreed that impact is highly personal and qualitative, requiring different metrics and sustained follow up.
Overheard on The Porch: Robust Conversations
DOING JEWISH vs BEING JEWISH: Front Porchers have been having a lively discussion online about JCC’s as Architects of the Jewish Future ™. It’s an article that appeared in eJewish Philanthropy, about the ways the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California has created a platform for innovation in the Jewish community, with the idea of meeting people where they are, and also expanding opportunities for “doing Jewish.” The idea is that by offering new ways to “do Jewish” we might deepen peoples’ sense of being Jewish. One person wondered if a better phrase might be “intentional” — that is being more intentional about our time, our practices, our observances.
The Front Porch is Headed to Israel: Community Leadership Trip
About 65 Front Porchers and other Jewish community leaders, are traveling together to Israel in late January. They met a few weeks ago to prepare for their trip and also to “unpack” the relationship between The Front Porch and the Israel Trip. Jodi Mansbach, who leads The Front Porch initiative, listened and participated at the meeting and saw 4 very significant connections. Here are her observations:
- It’s a Mega-Learning Journey
One of the ways The Front Porch is exploring its trickiest questions is through Learning Journeys. I’d suggest we think of our time together in Israel as a big Learning Journey. A Learning Journey allows the group to explore a critical question through visits to places very different from our current context and even outside our sector to get a fresh perspective. Learning Journeys allow the group to:
- Get breakthroughs or insights on core questions
- Challenge deeply held assumptions
- Breakthrough or out of our bubble and get inspiration from others
- Form unlikely partnerships
Some of you are committed to the full Front Porch process which continues after our Israel trip with dedicated time to work together on a Common Agenda — three to five big ideas or shifts in thinking — Israel will provide deep insight into our common agenda, as well as the conditions to support the kind of innovation we need in Jewish Atlanta.
- It’s a Mega-Listening Forum
As you know, The Front Porch is hosting Listening Forums all over the city and among various populations to make sure we hear the voices of many Atlantans, beyond the 100-plus who are making such a big time commitment. A week together in Israel affords us that opportunity among the leaders of Jewish Atlanta in spades.
- It will Take Collective Capacity to Lead from the Future for Jewish Atlanta
This is a big one. Coming out of The Front Porch will be a shared vision, theory of change and common agenda for the next chapter of Jewish Atlanta. As community leaders who have played an integral part in shaping that future, we will be uniquely positioned to lead from it. The partnerships we talked about when we were together and that each of us craves, will form the foundation and the fabric of the next chapter of Jewish Atlanta.
- It will Help Us Launch Prototypes
The Front Porch is about action and experimentation as much as it is about exploration and vision. On April 20th, The Front Porch will host a “Prototype Boot Camp” for teams of people who want to experiment in the direction of our vision and common agenda. Anyone who wants to bring a team is welcome. Please hold the date on your calendar. You never know what lightning strike of brilliance will come to you during or after our Israel trip.
Everyone who goes to Israel should feel a part of The Front Porch though they may not be formally committed to the platforms or teams that started working together in August.
The Front Porch gives us a framework and a structure for exploring our shifts in thinking and the discipline to move from talk into action. As Israel participants, you have a very important role on The Front Porch.
October Listening Forums
At last week’s Old Fourth Ward Listening Forum, these were the topics of conversation that participants wanted to have. Each conversation happened in small groups, followed by a group wrap-up to zero in on “clues” about what the priorities for Intown Jewish life might be. This group was action-oriented: “We can’t wait for big institutions to make these things happen,” one person said. “We’re the Jews we’ve been waiting for! We need to take the lead.”
Listening Forums are also scheduled in Buckhead/Brookhaven, Toco Hills, Dunwoody/Sandy Springs, Gwinnett, and North Metro. Micro-conversations, targeting groups with special interests, included: Seniors, Interfaith Families, LGBTQ, and Empty Nesters.
The Front Porch in the Community
The Front Porch lives in Federation’s Spring Street office most of the time, but it’s portable – it traveled to NoshFest at Temple Kol Emeth over Labor Day weekend and went to The Atlanta Kosher Barbeque in October. Federation Board Chair, Joel Marks, and his wife Charlotte had fun meeting folks and telling them about the community-wide Front Porch process. Lots of folks stopped by to learn about what we’re doing and how we’re rethinking Jewish community.
We brought a Front Porch MindMap to the Kosher Barbecue too. Itai Tsur, who is on the Innovation Platform team, used the map to explain the complexities of our community, our far flung geography, and the range of issues our teams are wrestling with.
Making Mind Maps
The Jewish Ecosystem Platform met on September 13-14 for two day-long sessions during the “Sensing” stage of our Front Porch work. One of our group techniques is called Mind Mapping. From the large “MindMap” on the wall, created by participants, we hammered out what became the first draft of a statement of intent and purpose, and a working vision for the future:
FIRST DRAFT: The “why” of Jewish Atlanta is to co-create a vibrant, exciting, inclusive and sustainable Jewish Atlanta ecosystem that is a vital part of worldwide Judaism—a community everyone can call home. A community that supports the wide array of Jews of Atlanta living meaningful Jewish lives, with many entry points for each person to connect in their unique way—so we might perpetuate Judaism, Jewish values and Jewish purpose.
Our vision is a community that never turns its back on those in need. A community that is welcoming no matter where you live and where you are from originally. A community that makes space for the next generation of leaders to innovate and create their own meaningful Jewish experiences. A community with clear priorities we work on together, priorities that generate excitement, expand philanthropic giving and create meaningful impact.
What’s a 4-D sculpture? Glad you asked!
We did some unexpectedly wacky stuff, too. Like using our whole bodies to create dynamic 4-D “sculptures” that physically expressed our feelings about the Jewish community. Here a group from the Innovation Platform created a living tableau depicting the relationship between various constituencies in our community – potential donors, Intowners, OTP-ers, etc. The tableau changed after group discussion, as people repositioned themselves to show what we could accomplish with better collaboration.
Watch The Fishbowl
At our Launch in September, we had a Fishbowl discussion – a big circle discussion that was moderated by Liz Alperin Solms, of Insyte Partners. In the center of the circle were three colleagues from other corners of the Jewish World who shared their wisdom and views about the Jewish future on the national/global scale. Front Porchers were invited to jumped into the circle and challenged our guests with questions about our local Jewish landscape. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/tKvEb9s5SF0
o Seth Cohen, Senior Director, Schusterman Foundation (www.schusterman.org)
o Aliza Kline, founding Executive Director, One Table (www.onetable.org) and co-founder of Boston’s Mayyim Hayyim (www.mayyimhayyim.org)
o Beth Mann, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Jewish Federations of North America (www.jewishfederations.org)
Sharing our Jewish Artifacts
At our launch meeting we asked participants to bring an “artifact” that defined their Jewish identity. Here are some of the tangible things Front Porchers said make them feel connected to all things Jewish.
Mark Spatt holds a copy of his grandfather’s bar mitzvah “It represents the old image of Judaism – a white man with a tallit on. The second is a poster that says ‘Jews kick ass’ and it is multicolored. It shows the changing perspective of what Judaism means to us, to Federation and how we respond to changes over time.”
Mimi Hall said her grandmother’s ring reminds her of southern Jewry and its old roots. “We want to respect what came before us, but want something we can carry into future generations.”
Debra Shaffer Seaman brought Legos. “You can’t create something great if you have only one color and one size. You need all of the different sizes and colors.”
September 13, 2017
With the launch of The Front Porch, I’m feeling optimistic and inspired for the conversations that will be had and the action plans that will be created about our Jewish Atlanta. Every person in the room, and there were over 100 of them, was engaged and contributing to the topics of discussion. It seemed that we were all buzzing with the same feelings of hope, potential, and passion for this community. Peering into the fishbowl conversation (my favorite activity of the evening) with Aliza Kline (OneTable), Seth Cohen (Schusterman Foundation), Beth Mann (Federation), and fellow Front Porchers, we discussed different models for building community, providing platforms vs. programs, and the role of major donors at our legacy organizations. Sitting with me still from that conversation is where we may be able to find the intersections between providing platforms for people to build their own communities and ensuring access to the most vulnerable and/or marginalized in our communities so that all are equally represented.
After an 8-hour launch, it was incredible to see that almost everyone was there until the end. And that was perhaps the most inspiring thing about the opening night – the feeling of being in this work together. Moving forward, I’ll be looking for the clues about how to create diverse and inclusive community that speaks to each of us spiritually and meaningfully.
– Karina (Kai) Ruiz
August 8, 2017
“I’m Harley Tabak, CEO of Jewish Home Life Communities, and one of the longest serving leaders of a Federation affiliate organization. I am very excited about the whole Front Porch process and the opportunity to bring many ideas and voices together. When I moved to Atlanta in 2004, meetings with colleagues occurred sporadically, so it was difficult to develop a collective and collaborative approach to common concerns and opportunities. Things are changing now, and it’s all good!
With The Front Porch initiative, I am hopeful and enthusiastic that working together, and planning together, we’ll develop effective ways to build a stronger Jewish, and non-Jewish, community in Atlanta.”
– Harley Tabak