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Dear Synagogue Leaders: Go Back Better (to In-Person)

Dear Synagogue Leaders,

We keepers of the flame
Of Jewish communal living,
If we haven’t already done so –
That the time to go back
Is arriving soon

We want to go back to in-person worship
We want to go back to in-person meetings
We want to go back to in-person learning
But in going back are the ways worth repeating?

Many of us crave a return to what’s normal
Many crave a return to what was
But should we crave a return to the unhealthy
To the pace, pressure, dysfunction, just because?

Talk Together: Lay Leaders, Clergy and Staff

Have we talked, really talked, with the clergy?
Have we talked, really listened, to our staff?
Are we sure how it’s best to return to before?
Or shall we risk creating a better second half?

Did we notice people’s growth in creativity?
Did we notice those people who thrived?
Are we aware of parents bonding with their children,
That they could do now without excuses contrived?

Embrace New Ways of Working

Do our staff really need to be in shul every weekday?
Are they most productive sitting right there in their seats?
Might there be another way to ensure the work’s getting done
Without enslaving them to the temple’s timesheets

Might we learn new improved ways of supervising
Might we explore more productive ways to set goals
Let’s commit now to going back better
And in ways that are better for our souls

Because why are we enslaved to the old workday system?
Where in Torah did God command 9-to-5?
Since the pandemic disrupted those old work processes
Might we consider that a valuable test drive?

Why can’t people work sometimes from home?
While others work at shul on those days?
Or set aside days for remote working or flex hours?
What might your staff members want and have to say?

Embrace the “New Now”

Let’s not rush back so quickly to what was
It wasn’t healthy, or creative; didn’t make sense
Let’s go back better, create a healthier “New Now”
And we’ll thrive, retain staff, with little expense

That’s what my shul is striving to do.
Maybe you will too.

Dear Synagogue Leaders,

The future’s in your hands –
So be disruptive
Study the lessons of distanced working –
And then let’s concede
That there might be many new ways of working better
So our staff’s happier and our synagogues succeed.

It doesn’t have to be how it was.
It could be better.
Let’s make it so.


Rabbi Paul Kipnes

A rabbi who can’t wait to go back
But is thriving with the time and space to breathe
And reorganize my work life

With thanks to Diana Ho of Management Arts, Inc, whose guidance always leads me to rethink what we have always done, disrupt what we are doing and figure out how to do it better in the future

For more on Synagogue Disruption, read:


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