Over the past few months I've learned some important lessons as we've gathered to share Shabbat and holiday celebrations. Each time we've met, our hosts have invited their own friends to join us. The power of these celebrations has been in small groups of friends gathering around the table and in the living room. While traditional synagogues and temples try and bring everyone together at once, OHEL has, by accident, taught me the power of building micro-communities. As the world grows smaller and people are more connected than ever on social media the lack of real, deep connection we feel is striking. Oversaturated news feeds and the overwhelming white noise force us to shut off the flow entirely and leave us yearning for something more. I look at the data on the emails that I send out and see that only 40%-50% of our email list even open the email. With so much information drowning out what's important it shouldn't come as a surprise that so many people just don't even bother to open emails anymore.
Jewish institutions can't be all things to all people. With limited budgets and resources, we all too often play to the center which leaves far too many of us feeling left out of the Jewish experience. This translates to what Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, in his book Playlist Judaism, "a decreasing cost benefit felt by its (a synagogue's) members.” But what if we embrace the idea that one size doesn't fit all and that it is in these micro-Jewish communities of families and friends where real Jewish engagement and empowerment can be found?
In Hebrew we call these micro-Jewish communities, havurot. A havurah is a small group of like-minded Jews and friends who gather to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays, learn, share Jewish experiences and mark lifecycle events. So, I'm going to try an experiment with OHEL and shift our focus a bit. In addition to offering programs that I hope everyone might come to, OHEL is now going to focus on helping you create sacred spaces in your lives, homes and offices. Maybe you want to invite some friends over for dinner on Friday night and want to transform it into a Shabbat celebration - OHEL can help you do that. Perhaps you want to invite your colleagues and friends at work to take a break from the grind and wrestle with some inspiring learning - OHEL can help you do that. However you want to celebrate your Judaism with your community of friends and family - OHEL can help you do that. OHEL takes Judaism personally and I want to celebrate your own personal Jewish journey with you, empowering you to take that next step. Check out the updated website and let me know what you think. Happy New Year!