I thought this would be a good opportunity to report on our accomplishments, and let you know what’s coming next year. For me personally it’s been a year filled with pride. I am constantly amazed at the dedication and commitment of our leadership and the many volunteers across North America who live and breathe men’s clubs, and who are willing to devote their time and effort to involve Jewish men in Jewish life.
Accomplishments in Our First Year
Overall we’ve made great progress, although there are a few areas that still require more effort. You may recall we targeted three key areas for improvement: growth, club support, and programming.
Growth: Our regional leadership and our consultants are working with our clubs to help them increase membership. This past year 71 clubs were successful in adding 660 new members, increasing their membership on average by 12%. It’s a good start, and these skilled volunteers are available to help your club with your Membership Campaign efforts in the coming year. We are here to help your club grow.
Club Support: We’ve restructured our Consultant and Region and Club Services teams to work more collaboratively with our Regions, and expanded our Leadership Development Institute (LDI) to more effectively train consultants and regional leaders. Regional retreats took place in 10 Regions in North America this past year. We estimate that nearly 1000 men attended retreats for the camaraderie, learning, and ruach. Attendees came away with renewed commitment to their clubs and synagogues. We also created a Programming Calendar for our clubs and regions to aid in the annual planning of their events; you can find it at www. fjmc.org.
We launched a new membership database system which provides more accurate and timely billing information, documentation of club membership data, and the ability for clubs and regions to modify their own rosters online. This took a lot longer than anticipated but it’s now working and is being introduced to our regions. Our IT group was challenged to make this happen and they came through big time. We also conducted an independent review of our Office operations and as a result have begun to improve our efficiency. This is critical as our dedicated and hard-working staff is constantly being asked to assume additional responsibilities.
Programming: We’re developing several programmatic initiatives designed to better involve Jewish men and their families in Jewish Life. These efforts are currently being piloted and will be available to your club and congregation at Convention. To provide more meaningful Shabbat Morning Prayer experiences we created three new prayer initiatives, a Learner’s Service, an Experiential Service, and a Meditation Service. These services, developed in partnership with the Cantors Assembly, were designed to engage and attract more people to your synagogue and provide them with a Shabbat experience. In addition we partnered with a company called “Shalom Learning” and are adapting their on-line Hebrew reading program for adults. We consider this to be the successor to the Hebrew Literacy program. We are also developing a Celebrating Shabbat at Home initiative. This is an update and significant expansion of the Shabbat Seder program in FJMC’s Art of Jewish Living series.
Other areas: We continue to expand and improve our efforts in the areas of programming, communications, and leadership. An Implementation Guide for “Jewish Men at the Crossroads” was published in order to guide clubs in conducting great Hearing Men’s Voices sessions. Participation in the World Wide Wrap increased by 30% and the Shoah Yellow Candle program launched “The Million Candle Challenge”. A training course titled “Creating a Minyan of Comfort,” teaching people how to lead a shiva minyan has been published and will be field tested this Winter and Spring. Finally, a new Keruv booklet “Engaging the Non-Jewish Spouse: Strategies for Clergy and Lay Leadership,” was published and distributed it to all congregational rabbis.
In order to enhance our communications our three major electronic publications, the HaShofar, the Advantage and the Unraveller have been revised. In addition I started a monthly President’s Blog on our website, Myles’ Musings. Finally, we conducted an outstanding LDI for club consultants, Keruv consultants, regional leaders, and the FJMC Executive Committee. This effort continues to be one of our most passionate initiatives.
Finally, FJMC conducted a Mission to Masorti Congregations in southern France, to demonstrate support for our brethren in Nice and Aix-en-Provence and to learn about the issues facing Masorti Jews in Europe.
Goals and Plans for the Coming Year
We will continue to aggressively strengthen membership growth, club support, and programming, and to improve our ongoing signature activities: LDI, Keruv Think Tanks and Consultant Training, World Wide Wrap, Build-A-Pair, Men’s Club Shabbat, and the Shoah Yellow Candle program.
We will launch two new electronic publications, a “Health, Wealth, and Retirement” newsletter for those interested in their financial and physical well-being, and a Keruv Newsletter for our members and their congregations that addresses the issues of interfaith marriage and raising Jewish families. We have just published Spanish and French translations of articles from Rabbi Simon’s “Understanding the Haftarot: An Everyperson's Guide” for use in Masorti congregations in Europe and South America.
Last but not least we are working to ensure another remarkable and unforgettable International Convention at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach this coming July, where you will be able to engage top thinkers and leaders in Conservative Judaism, engage your body and spirit, and engage with Jewish men and women across the globe in camaraderie, education, leadership development and fun. A number of new initiatives mentioned above will be showcased at that time as well as a special fundraising seminar focusing on the needs of clubs and regions and a second Wealth Management Conference. Undoubtedly this will be our best convention yet.
We continue to work with all arms of our International Conservative/Masorti Movement and actively participate in Movement-wide activities. We also do things in response to your concerns that we hear when we visit our clubs. In my June blog and in the latest edition of CJ magazine I describe FJMC’s strategy and the actions we are taking to help address the concerns mentioned in the Pew Report. We are the organization that knows how to make things happen –we reach out through our Keruv initiative and bring people closer to our tradition and to observance through the World Wide Wrap, the Yellow Candle Program and the Shabbat initiative. We support our international Movement and provide needed tefillin and mezuzot with the donations raised through the World Wide Wrap and we sponsor an occasional mission to build relationship with Conservative/Masorti communities that have never before been visited.
You should be very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, and what we will accomplish in the future! Please post any questions or comments.
My best for a meaningful holiday period. Shanah Tovah!