An organization is “a container for meaning,” Rabbi Hayim Herring told more than 80 people gathered for the first Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Herring, an organizational consultant specializing in synagogues and Jewish agencies, presented “Jewish Organization 3.0: New Generations, New Paradigm” to the council, a community forum the Federation created when it streamlined its board this spring.
Noting that the council included a wide range of ages, he outlined some differences between the hierarchical organizations created in the baby boom generation (his own) or earlier, and the social networks millennials are forming today. Herring recommends a hybrid approach.
Traditional or “1.0” Jewish organizations have a pyramid-shaped hierarchy and a central physical address, he said, illustrating with a typical organizational chart, similar to a family tree. A 2.0 version has a similar structure and a central address, but also includes an Internet presence.
In a 3.0 organization, the physical and web presences are blurred, and the organization is available 24/7 — or 24/6 in the case of many Jewish organizations. Social networks are fluid — commitment may be short-term — and relationship-driven. Members determine their level of participation and content is co-created.
To help illustrate the qualities of social networks, council members gave short reports on three organizations that typify this approach.
Michael Shiner spoke about Moishe House, which gives small groups of post-college 20-somethings subsidized rent in return for sponsoring Jewish activities, and has 70-plus houses worldwide.
Ariella Mollen talked about PJ Library, which sends free Jewish children’s books to thousands of families across North America and uses social media to stay connected and find new families.
Amy Hirshberg Lederman presented Kevah, text-based Jewish learning groups that meet in people’s homes. Kevah started in San Francisco and now has more than a dozen groups there. Groups are being started in Boston as well.
The purpose of the reports was not to determine if these organizations are a good fit for Tucson — we already have a thriving PJ Library program — but to illuminate the variety and flexibility of social networking organizations.
In a question and answer period following the reports, one council member asked Herring what this “culture of the empowered individual” means for Southern Arizona’s Jewish community.
“I would never presuppose what you should do. You are the experts of your community. You are the leaders,” Herring demurred, adding that as leaders, it was their role to begin thinking of ways to more rapidly bring a new mindset to the Federation.
“We are fortunate to be part of an energized community that is not afraid to change with the times,” said Kathy Unger, board chair of the Federation. “We planned this deliberately provocative conversation with our new Federation council to stimulate our thinking. Our intention is to continue to evolve in this world of social media, as we find new ways to nurture meaningful engagement with our Jewish community.”