A spiritual equity mapping project

In Short

What is Jewish spiritual mapping? It is a new way of recognizing the spatial mismatch of Jewish spirituality, organizational proficiency and belonging that occurs across the country.

In our work as educators and consultants, we find that so much of what transpires or fails to connect with various audiences is because organizations aren’t being spurred and supported to be imaginative. The idea of a Spiritual Equity Mapping Project might help forecast and scenario plan various audacious Jewish futures for communities, individuals, organizations and initiatives to help create and build the Jewish futures that we dare to dream toward. A Spiritual Equity Mapping Project–similar in aspirational vision as a wealth map – is the notion that we can bring the praxis of forecasting and scenario planning to build a fuller, more relevant and creative Jewish present. The impact would be manifold, including contributing to how one frames their work in the Jewish world, how they approach that work, how to bring that work to fruition, how to think generatively about the work to be done and how it connects back to the end user. Angie Thurston, Casper ter Kuile and the Rev. Sue Phillips have done pioneering work on this very topic, building a topography of “jobs to be done” towards the care of souls

Foresight or foresight thinking is defined as “a range of methodologies, such as scanning the horizon for emerging changes, analyzing megatrends and developing multiple scenarios, to reveal and discuss useful ideas about the future.” The notion of probabilistic thinking comes into play in this space by the futurist Peter Leyden. Futurescaping is the art and science of using foresight methods to strategically imagine what could be. Global businesses have used foresight and futurescaping techniques for years to aid in option setting, decision-making and organizational planning. However, as noted, these approaches haven’t been as personified in a Jewish spiritual and belonging context. adrienne maree brown’s bestseller, Emergent StrategyShaping Change, Shaping Worlds, essentially describes how to be in a world of flux. One of her many ideas here is that fixed goals are actually relatively ineffective when it comes to supporting authentic emergence; in fact, a state of fixedness can actually make us woefully inflexible when it comes to tuning ourselves to flow. Moreover, groundbreaking work is being done presently in coming to terms with the connective and anti-disciplinary forces that shape our realities. 

A New Jewish Futures ParadigmConstructed/Destructed Jewish Futures

This paradigm is a matrix designed to help individuals and organizations understand how they situate themselves and connect to this project of creative Jewish futures. The matrix is designed as inhabiting four various creative domains: (1) Constructed Past; (2) Constructed Future; (3) Destructed Past; (4) Destructed Future. We have included a representative place that we believe inhabits the beliefs, norms, and mores aligned with the respective creative domain. To be “constructed” in this paradigm is to be engaging in an exercise of collective imaginative remembrance; to be “destructed” is to be engaging in a collective imaginative rebuilding. Naturally, remembrance and rebuilding are two sides of the same coin of being and becoming – it is not our intention or desire to create an “either/or” dynamic, but possibly a “both/and” typology that helps situate place-based spirituality in all of its complexity. We realize this matrix needs unpacking and layers of understanding and exploration, but for now, we are positing that this matrix is useful for starting a conversation on communal health, deciding where to invest, how to build Jewish communal infrastructure and most simply, where to live, and (how to) build community and spiritual equity – fairness in the distribution of spiritual infrastructure and community.

The full matrix is displayed below, as an example: 

Constructed Past BerlinConstructed Future Tulsa
Destructed Past MilwaukeeDestructed Future San Francisco

An emergent visual typology of how to categorize and characterize place-based spiritual inequity. 

Jewish Spiritual Mapping

What is Jewish spiritual mapping? It is a new way of recognizing the spatial mismatch of Jewish spirituality, organizational proficiency and belonging that occurs across the country. The term speaks to the ways in which Jewish communities across the nation have varying capacities and accessibility to a constellation of Jewish spiritual options, places, people and programs. Certainly, there isn’t one definitive “right” way to produce a spiritual equity map. Understanding what stories you are trying to understand and what questions you are trying to ask is a good first step in developing the domains of how to go about developing such a visual. As we look to provide relevant and meaningful tools and frameworks, we are excited about the possibilities inherent in these discussed modalities and welcome conversation and feedback in their refinement. We hope these ideas begin to conceptualize a way of building and shaping metrics of communal and spiritual health. These metrics should lead to further paradigms of understanding and funding to these critical issues. We hope to convene a cohort of individuals rooted in place to wrestle with these notions and beyond:

  • What makes a community spiritually healthy? How does spiritual health manifest itself? 
  • What are the dimensions of communal and spiritual health, and who is interested in confronting these issues deeply? 
  • Who may be interested and serious about funding these ventures? 
  • What are the layers of physical infrastructure, interdisciplinary thinking, concentric circles of community, and independent-institutional collaboration to make this visual map a reality? 
  • What learnings might we glean for the communities we serve and to which we belong?

We welcome feedback and refinement in these ideas. You can read our full paper here

Jeffrey Tiell is a cross-sector consultant working at the intersection of philanthropy, spirituality and place.

Seth Linden is founder and principal of Gather Consulting, where he advises philanthropists, CEOs and boards at the intersections of education, leadership and community.