By Molly Ritvo
[Written with synagogues in mind; applicable for all.]
Rosh Hashanah is less than a week away! Are you ready to harness the energy & excitement of the High Holidays & transform it into year-round community engagement? For most synagogues, this is the time when your website and your actual doors will be experiencing the most traffic. Here some strategies to help you engage your High Holiday visitors:
Over-do the signage. Both online and inside your congregation. Make it easy for people to find their section in the sanctuary, the coat room, restrooms, parking areas, and the appropriate childcare rooms. Use a large, clear font so your elders can access the information. And for your online area, direct all members to a clear, designated space on your website where they can find all High Holiday related information, including registration forms and the times of upcoming services.
Post an oversized calendar in a very visible way inside your congregation and online. Make it very easy for your community to know about the upcoming events for the next three months. This is the best time to promote your on-going activities and programming. Add this upcoming quarterly programing to every touch point with the congregants and guests. Also keep a master calendar online so your entire community is kept up-to-date about the times and locations of services & important meetings.
Advertise upcoming programs on your website and through your social channels. More people than ever will be looking online to understand the specifics around your High Holiday services and events. Are you hosting a special Welcome Back Shabbat? A community breakfast? An exciting Sukkot program? Prominently display these events in all your channels. For any programs for kids, hand a flyer to parents and guardians when they pick-up or drop-off their child at services. Don’t miss this great opportunity to publicize future events.
Make sure your Rabbi’s sermon is compelling, meaningful, and uses ideas and language that young people, Interfaith couples, and baby boomers can relate to. Perhaps this year, your Rabbi will read a sermon that inspires your community. Following the High Holidays, post the sermon online and email it to your community. Better yet, upload an audio and/or video recording.
Make sure your ushers act as official ‘welcomers.’ Always think through the lens of a first-time visitor to your congregation. Your ushers need to do more than just hand out prayer books. These ushers set the tone for a positive experience for the community. Remind them to smile, shake hands, ask questions, and to be the official ‘ambassador’ for your organization. Have you asked any post b’nai mitzvah teens to help out here? They could bring some fresh enthusiasm to the High Holiday Days. Additionally, make sure all staff and greeters wear name tags so they are ready to help someone who is confused or wondering where the bathroom is located.
Start tweeting now. Use social media to generate excitement for your upcoming services today. Share part of the Rabbi’s sermon on Facebook. If you are spotlighting the Jvillage High Holiday kit on your website, tweet our content from the kit such as this delicious recipe for honey cake. Include a related question that invites your members to join an online conversation. Encourage people to “share” the content on their own Facebook walls.
Live stream your services. Allow your members who may not be able to attend services in-person to stay connected by broadcasting your services. By live streaming your services, you will dramatically expand your reach and you can give far away college students a sweet taste of home.
Grow your membership. During the High Holidays, many prospective members will show up for the first time. Have you developed a plan for getting their names and contact information? Following the High Holidays, take time to reach out to every new prospective member and share upcoming programs, classes, and learning opportunities with them. Give them incentive to want to join your community. Develop an orientation program (can be as simple as meals in member’s homes) for new members so that they feel like they’re a valued part of the community.
Molly Ritvo is Partnership Development & Digital Marketing Associate at Jvillage Network.