Please Welcome Me at Services Thursday Morning …. A Plea For All the New Faces at Your Synagogue
As a communicator, I like to observe how strangers successfully find their way into a social situation or, sadly fail to make an initial connection that held the potential promise for real friendship. As we approach the High Holidays, I am reminded of how great an opportunity we have during the holidays to meet the stranger and offer ourselves as connectors and introducers to our Jewish community.
This week we will come together to pray, to welcome the new year, remember all that has transpired over the past one and hopefully spend a few moments greeting one and other with love, kindness and a hearty L’Shana Tova.
If you are a synagogue leader, or simply an active and engaged member of your Jewish community, I urge you to do something more this year and make it your task to “officially” welcome the strangers among you. Yes, there will be new faces among you who you are likely to dismiss but these are the people who could become your next synagogue young leadership outreach chair, your greatest building committee member or simply a source of insight into what your synagogue needs to become to attract more new faces that will fill more seats next Rosh Hashanah. Ignoring them is easy to do but a profound mistake.
Thursday is an opportunity for every synagogue leader and active member to become self-appointed, official greeters and engagers of the strangers among you. Extract yourselves from the warm embrace of your long-standing synagogue friends and go introduce yourself to that lonely lost newcomer. Find out who they are, what brought them to your synagogue, what they thought of the experience and ask what you can do to continue the conversation. If it makes it easier for you, wear badges that identify you as a synagogue leader so that newcomers can easily introduce themselves to you and can readily locate you as a friendly face amid a sea of strangers. Hand out special cards of greeting for newcomers which include email and phone numbers encouraging them to contact someone to learn more about your synagogue and its broader network of Jewish services.
If we truly want to be a welcoming Jewish community we each need to play a part in making it so. Good marketing (and good Jewish community building) is as basic as being a generous and welcoming host … to actively create the experiences that invite the cautious newcomer inside and allows them to feel the goodness of our community.
Please extend your hands and your hearts this Thursday. Step up and welcome the newcomer. Provide them an easy way to access your community after the holidays – whether it is with a list of resources, your personal business card, or a follow up call to see how you might provide additional help in navigating the Jewish community’s terrain. Nothing feels better and has a more lasting impression than your individual and genuine efforts. Make it your job this week and have a sweet and enriching new year.
L’ Shana Tova.
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional who currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.