Every segment of the Jewish community in America is busy working to better engage people. Synagogues and agencies want to do whatever they can to connect with us and serve our needs. We’re all in this together. I believe that most of our organizations have their hearts in the right place, but in our attempts to make a dent in the Jewish world, are we being efficient?
Recently, I had the good fortune of hearing a beautiful presentation on nonprofits by Yissel Salafsky. Yissel, a mother, wife, and part of the future of our Tucson Jewish community, spoke about the need for collaboration within the nonprofit world. She has studied the benefits of partnership among different groups and believes that this strategy will be part of the solution in helping us to reach our goals. I strongly agree with Yissel. In fact, this bridge-building is exactly what we are working toward.
Last month I had a “Positive Jewish Experience.” I represented Congregation Bet Shalom at a special celebration taking place at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. This simcha hosted by Interfaith Community Services was celebrating that 100 congregations of different religions and denominations are now a part of ICS. What is ICS? According to their website, ICS is an organization that “helps Pima County seniors, disabled individuals and people in financial crisis … through programs and services supported by staff, volunteers, faith communities….” Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques do not typically have the infrastructure to help people the way ICS does, so we are blessed to work together through ICS to accomplish these universal tasks.
One of the speakers from ICS acknowledged how tricky it is to work with so many different kinds of religious organizations and people. She said that at ICS they have to be very careful to stick to the things that are common between us — helping people in need of food, shelter, jobs, etc. She mentioned how the 100 religious groups that make up ICS espouse differing opinions on almost everything imaginable. These groups disagree on worship style, politics, and everything in between. Yet they are able to find projects that we can work on together for the greater good. They just have to be respectful and vigilant about keeping the conversation pareve (neutral).
ICS is wonderful. The religious groups in Southern Arizona who belong to ICS are pleased to join together in these noble efforts. Could it be that our synagogues and Jewish agencies might also learn from this example of collaboration? If we can also streamline joining together for more projects, we may be able to amplify our Jewish efforts in this region.
Rabbi Hazzan Avraham Alpert received his ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles on May 29. Look for more information in the Oct. 20 edition of the AJP.