Membership in Jewish organizations is down. Day school enrollment has peaked. Federation campaigns are flat. The fastest growing and second largest category of Jews is “Just Jewish.” Young Jewish adults are unengaged and aging baby boomers are disengaging. Yet, in the era of Facebook, people crave face-to-face community.
“It’s all about relationships.” With this simple, but profound idea, noted educator and community revitalization pioneer Dr. Ron Wolfson presents practical strategies and case studies to transform the old model of Jewish institutions into relational communities. He sets out twelve principles of relational engagement to guide Jewish lay leaders, professionals and community members in transforming institutions into inspiring communities whose value-proposition is to engage people and connect them to Judaism and community in meaningful and lasting ways.

“What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.”.watch full The Dreamed Path 2017 film

Ron explains that today synagogues are based on transactional models of engagement. And many congregation have many programs that attract different people. Once the transactions are over many decide to leave because they do not see the value in membership since they have not found the group of friends that are with you through the thick or thin. The programmatic transactional model needs to be shifted to relational so that it becomes a place where stories are shared same way Men’s Club has done with hearing men’s voices.

Ron mentions that even though there can be great programs, still the institution are deemed by members cold and unwelcoming and no steps are taken to create long lasting relationships. He mentions that there needs to be a push away from programs and more a push to really connect by learning about people and connect them to Judaism in a significant way,The Boss Baby movie

Ron already has done previous work on the art of welcoming. He mentions that we fill demographic forms but do not take the time to interview or even look at what is filled on the form? He mentions that today you can rent religious services or even get all the Jewish information online. Therefor there is a need to look at what is the offer that is in Jewish life. He mentions the importance of face to face relationships for the next phase. Help them connect more deeply with the Jewish experience since Judaism is a covenental religion. Its built on relationships between the person and variety of levels of Jewish experience.

Ron mentions that there are levels of relationships:
Helping people better understand relationship between them and themselves,their family,their friends,Judaism,community, peoplehood, Israel, world, God.
He also mentioned ways of applying 12 principles of relational engagement and how we do synagogue life should look at personal encounters or relationships where we find meaning, purpose, blessings and belonging.

This paradigm shift will not be easy; this is labor-intensive work. It will not require more buildings but a reallocation of the precious time of staff and laity. We will need engagement rabbis, relationship directors, community concierges and sophisticated tracking systems to ensure appropriate follow-up and transitions as individuals traverse the life cycle of community engagement. We will not need new institutions, but to transform the institutions we already have from programmatic to relational communities. People may come for programs, but they will stay for relationships.