Al ChetTwo years ago I wrote a posting, “Unetaneh Tokef for NonProfits,” for this blog that adapted that High Holiday prayer to our lives as professionals and volunteers. It focused on viewing our Jewish communal activities as Avodat Kadosh, “Holy Work,” and how we needed to think about our hopes and desires in this arena for the coming year. This High Holiday season, I have adapted the prayer, Al Chet, “For the Sins,” to make it particularly relevant to our volunteer and professional lives.

In this prayer we ask God to forgive us for the wrongdoings we have committed over the past year. The prayer is said nine times over the course of Yom Kippur to provide us, over and over again, with the opportunity to contemplate the way we have lived our lives over the past year and how we hope to improve our lives in the coming year. Each line has the same structure, beginning with the words, “For the wrongdoing that we have committed by_____”, with specific actions filling in the blank.

Below please find my version of a Jewish communal service prayer. It is designed to help us review and reconsider our work and volunteer commitments and how we have or have not fulfilled our respective roles as volunteer and professional leaders. I hope you find this to be a helpful guide as you think about what you intended to accomplish, what you actually accomplished, and what still remains to be done. The prayer is not comprehensive, and you may have your own thoughts to add.

For the wrong doing we committed in continually being focused our own needs and for the wrongdoing we committed in not being concerned about other people.

For the wrongdoing we committed in speaking too much at meetings and for the wrongdoing we committed in not really listening to what others had to say at those meetings.

For the wrongdoing we committed in being deceitful with ourselves and others and for the wrongdoing we did in not being honest with ourselves and others.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not stepping forward to take on assignments and for the wrongdoing we committed in letting the same people always volunteer to do what needs to be done.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not fulfilling our responsibilities and for the wrongdoing we committed by allowing other people to complete our work.

For the wrongdoing we committed by not sharing our thoughts honestly with other people when appropriate to do so and for the wrongdoing we committed when speaking about people behind their backs.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not acknowledging the accomplishments of our colleagues and for the wrongdoing we committed in taking credit for our colleagues’ accomplishments.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not offering to assist a colleague who needs help and for the wrongdoing we committed in enjoying the failures of our colleagues.

For the wrongdoing we committed by not working cooperatively with our colleagues and for the wrongdoing we committed in not including them in a group effort when it would have been appropriate.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not offering suggestions to a colleague that could have been helpful and for the wrongdoing we committed in remaining silent when a colleague said something that was incorrect.

OPTIONAL: For All These, God of Forgiveness, Forgive Us, Pardon Us, and Strengthen Our Efforts on Behalf of the Community, Israel, and the Jewish People.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not working enough to strengthen our local community and for the wrongdoing we committed in not working enough to strengthen the State of Israel.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not educating ourselves more about the needs of the local community and for the wrongdoing we committed in not educating ourselves more about the needs of the State of Israel.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not reaching out to involve more people in the work of the community and for the wrongdoing we committed in not following up with people who expressed an interest in being involved in the community.

For the wrongdoing we committed in being too focused on our organization’s needs and for the wrongdoing we committed in not working enough for the benefit of the entire community.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not working enough to unify the community and for the wrongdoing we committed privileging one religious denomination over another one in the community.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not demonstrating respect for our colleagues and for the wrongdoing we committed in speaking harshly to our professional and volunteer leaders.

For the wrongdoing we committed in severely criticizing other people and for the wrongdoing we committed in not seeing the positive contributions of our colleagues.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not returning phone calls and and for the wrongdoing we committed in failing to respond in a timely manner to requests from our professional and volunteer leaders.

For the wrongdoing we volunteer leaders committed by not treating emails from professional staff with respect and for the wrongdoing we professional leaders committed by not fully respecting our volunteer leaders.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not taking the time to meet with people who wanted to speak to us and for the wrongdoing we committed in not listening to people when we did meet with them.

For the wrongdoing we committed in not contributing sufficiently to the community’s annual fundraising campaign and for the wrongdoing we committed in not encouraging others to contribute to the annual fundraising campaign.

OPTIONAL: For All These, God of Forgiveness, Forgive Us, Pardon Us, and Strengthen Our Efforts on Behalf of the Community, Israel, and the Jewish People.

Summary Meditation: For the positive and negative behaviors whether they can be changed or not, for the wrongdoings known to us and for those that are unknown to us. For those that are known, we readily admit them; for those unknown to us, please forgive us. We hope we become aware of these behaviors so we can change how we engage with and respond to others and can work more effectively for the betterment and strengthening of the community.

I hope this adaption of the Al Chet will provide a framework for you to think about your community activities, whether as a professional or volunteer leader, and give you direction in improving your involvements and your behaviors.

Wishing you all a Healthy, Meaningful, and Happy New Year!

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening nonprofit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.