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WHY IS THIS BOARD DIFFERENT?

[WHEN] TWO THEN

S IT TH E

TOGETHER AND EXCHANGE DIVINE PRESENCE DWELLS

WORDS OF TORAH, WITH THEM. PIRKEI AVOT

3:2

It is important to try to create the feeling of holy space in your deliberations as you approach the sacred task of managing your congregation. It is not appropriate to separate or compartmentalize your work as a synagogue leader from the purpose of the institution you serve. As a board member, you should try to develop yourself “Jewishly,” both as an individual who is deeply committed to your faith and as a leader who is sensitive to the concerns of the congregation’s members. As a board member, ask yourself whether there is a core of Jewish values and observances to which you can commit yourself and to which you can then invite the commitment of the congregation.

At the outset, board members should treat one another with respect and compassion and with the knowledge that your decisions involve building and perpetuating the Jewish future. One of the missions of a board member is to accept the awesome responsibility and incredible opportunity you have been given to be God’s partner in tikkun olam, the repair of the world. Every action you take is potentially critical: You are either helping to repair the world or you are not. Thus you have the ability to shape lives, change lives, be a force for good, and apply our most cherished Jewish values to synagogue work.

The work of the board is to become a community, learning and living Torah and serving as a model for the congregation. The most successful synagogues

  • Have a clear vision of the kind of welcoming, spiritually fulfilling community they want to be.

  • Understand that the business of synagogue trustees is to manage the sacred.

  • Know that their mission is to create Jews and sustain Judaism.

  • Build the kind of environment in which God’s Presence is palpable, individuals can grow Jewishly, and k’dushah, holiness, is the guiding principle.

  • Understand their role in the Reform Movement and participate at the local, regional, and international levels.

Compared to other institutions in Jewish life, the synagogue has a special opportunity to pursue ethical behavior through the decisions it makes, the policies it fosters, and the activities in which it engages. Every aspect of your role as a synagogue leader has an ethical dimension––from how you make policy decisions to how you speak to others, from how you conduct business with your vendors to how you treat your employees. Consider the importance of modeling Jewish ethical behavior in the following areas:

  • Interpersonal relationships should be inclusive. Board members should encourage intergenerational harmony among and attention to all people, with special sensitivity to those who might feel stigmatized.

  • Communication should reflect an awareness of the biblical dictum that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Gossip should be avoided. Ethical communication requires honesty, openness, and, at times, strict confidentiality.

UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM • 11

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