It’s taken longer than I had planned, but the congregational survey I wrote about this summer is just about ready to go live. Sometime in the next few weeks, we will be sending out an email with a link to the survey, and the more of you who complete it, the more useful it will be as a tool for reaching new potential as a congregational community.

We crafted the survey with you in mind. We tried to make it as simple and straightforward as possible, while also including opportunities for you to share or ask whatever you like. There are some questions that might make you wonder why we’re asking them, and rather than adding wordy explanations to the survey itself, I am using this forum to share some of the thinking behind the specifics.

The survey is for everyone – it is set up to be completed by a primary respondent, but rather than lumping everyone in a household together, we would like information about and from each family member. This includes spouses, children, and yes, even spouses who are not Jewish, because you are important to us too, and we want to know who you are.

Knowing who all the members of a household are will enable us to communicate more effectively and make sure we are reaching the right people at the right time. For example, if we know that a teenager is graduating from high school, it is an opportunity for us to connect with both student and parents at a powerfully transformative point in their lives.

And it’s not just about kids and families. Knowing who is on their own, particularly those advanced in years, will enable us to reach out to help people stay connected, and, when needed, simply to help.

Some of you might wonder why we want to know where you work, what kind of work you do, and what special skills or hobbies you have. It’s not just because we’re nosey.

If, after mapping work addresses, we discover that there are 30 congregants who work within a four-block area, that tells me that there is a great opportunity to connect with them in that area. Whether it’s hosting a lunch and learn in someone’s conference room, or simply posting that I’ll be at a particular coffee shop at a given time – I want to engage congregants where you are.

As for wanting to know what kind of work you do, as well as special skills and hobbies, you all hold a tremendous collective wealth of experience and expertise. If we know about your particular experience and expertise, then we can honor it by reaching out to you for input, advice, and, if you’re willing, help on particular programs and projects. In creating this survey, for example, Jeff Greenberg, a congregant who works in the field of consumer experience analytics was incredibly helpful on both the technical ends and the formulation of questions (especially when it came to making them less wordy!). Because I knew who to turn to, Jeff had an opportunity for meaningful involvement that did not include a single committee meeting. Thank you, Jeff!

As I mentioned above, we also want to know about family members who are not Jewish. We know that there are a lot of you out there, and you are an important part of our community. Whatever role Judaism and the congregation play in your life, it is something, and by knowing who you are, we stand a better chance of making that role a positive and supportive one.

Whenever someone is collecting data, I always want to know why. What do they plan to do with it? Sometimes, organizations are fixated on collecting data for the sake of collecting data. That’s not what this is. The purpose of this survey is to help Temple B’nai Jeshurun, and me, the new rabbi, know who you are so that I can connect with you, and so we can connect you with each other. Who knows, we may have multiple woodworkers who don’t know each other but would love to work on a project together (like repairing the loose veneer on the ark). Or maybe one of you would jump at the chance to bring soup to a sick congregant who you didn’t know lived less than a mile from you. We are asking these questions because I want to connect with you, and I want to connect you with each other. After all, a congregation full of people who personally know their rabbi -that’s something. But a congregation full of people who personally know and care about each other – that’s a family. That seems like something I’d like to be a part of.

If you do not currently receive emails from Temple B’nai Jeshurun, please make sure to check your spam/junk folder or check with the office that you are subscribed to our email service. Our staff will be happy to assist in any way possible to get you a copy of the survey.


Rabbi Neal Schuster