Communal Re-Engagement Report – November 2022

A full copy of this report can be viewed/downloaded from here.

The Executive Team will now be taking this forward and considering appropriate action – if you have any queries/further feedback, please contact Lisa Olins or Rabbi Kurzer.

Recommended Quick Wins

  • Change layout: number and position of seats, location of bimah and mechitzah
  • Consider opportunities to involve women
  • Provide coffee, cake and schmooze
  • Interchange weekly format, including guest chazan, speaker, explanatory, demographic/ segment-specific focus
  • Revise service content: sing Aleinu, reduce repetition (of Mourner’s Kaddish), …
  • Contact non-returnees directly: phone or in-person, rather than message/email

Specific Communal Volunteer Initiatives

Jonathan Lewis Deliver a specific lecture series (cultural history from 1066 to present day)
Robin Woolf Restart Dvar Torah session by members
Harvey Kasin Coordinate kiddushim in private homes with invited guests
Simon Albert Organise a course in First Aid and CPR
George White Analyse membership to identify specific segments/ demographics for whom tailored programmes can be offered
Jeremy Aron Approach recent barmitzvah boys to join leining and/ or haftorah rotas (barmitzvah anniversary) and other opportunities
David Taylor Offer advice/training on traditional tunes/nusach
Brian Conway Offer advice/training for Cohanim-specific activities and haftorah classes
Alan Kleinman Offer advice/training on weekday davening
Doreen Samuels Restart Women’s programme (ORA/WOW)
Larraine Solomon Provide focus-group input to provide support/ feedback to develop priorities

Other Recommendations

  • Consider young families and build upon results of recent WhatsApp survey, recognizing that they are ‘time-poor’ and that any offering needs to be ‘short, sharp and effective’
  • Protect the core membership who attend weekday minyanim and/or regularly on Shabbat, simultaneously reach out to those who are not interested in specifically religious activities
  • Publicise specific initiatives within the US Project Welcome initiative (which we are participating in/have funding for)
  • Reintroduce Azamra (women-only Kabbalat Shabbat service)
  • Organise local minyanim in people’s houses for Kabbalat Shabbat services
  • Optimise use of physical facilities 7 days a week, not just Shabbat
  • Recognise customer feedback and that ‘good/bad vibes’ spread quickly
  • Give people a role/job so that they have a reason to come to shul
  • Communicate that all feedback is welcome and the appropriate channels to provide it
  • Acknowledge that Covid is still here and presents ongoing challenges for some of our members
  • Accept that some women feel alienated ‘Second-Class citizens’ but this is not a universal opinion
  • Define success criteria now so that in the future, you can measure the effectiveness of your actions
  • Tailor offerings to suit different levels of religious observance and belief

Objectives & Approach

In August 2022, we asked how our social and religious communal life can be invigorated and subsequently shared some of that feedback, inviting all members to attend a forum to focus on these specific areas, as well as providing an opportunity for each attendee to raise and discuss personal priorities and commit to organising and running future activities. This forum was held on Sunday 27 November 2022.

The feedback we had received prior to the forum was classified into three areas for focus as detailed below – consequent recommendations are detailed above.

Religious Services
  • different mix of styles of service; traditional, chazanut, hashkama minyan
  • kiddush held in break during service
  • tailored services; children, youth
  • celebration of members’ special occasions/lifecycle events
  • female participation
  • physical layout of the shul (mechitzah) and service locations (eg Beit Hamedrash)
  • shorter services (eg Covid format, starting after Pesukei D’Zimra)
  • recital/omission of individual memorial prayers, refuah shlema, piyyutim, mishnayot, …) and reduction in number of times mourners kaddish is recited
  • D’var Torah; presentation by members of community (before/during/after service)
  • Shabbat & Yomim Tovim; Rabbi & Rebbetzen to teach theory & practice
  • more programmes; secular, religious, Jewish cultural subjects
  • sermons; variations of speaker and subject matter
  • Bar & Bat Mitzvah programmes; mandatory learning/attendance for parents and children
  • transition through services; children, youth, main – teach tunes, pace
  • participative explanatory services
  • discussion groups; religious, cultural, tailored for specific demographics
Social & Welfare
  • Executive and Rabbi/Rebbetzen to review membership and tailor direct approach to individuals and groups, attempt to connect with wider (missing) members
  • social events; enlarge events committee, fund raising, number of happenings
  • Shabbat morning creche for the parents and members
  • ‘at home’ kiddushim (in style of Shabbat UK)
  • first aid; training in resuscitation and use of defibrillator
  • open One Cecil Park to members for warmth, coffee, chat and company

Summary of feedback received

Religious Services: Structure & Content
  • Don’t change service structure or minhagim
  • Ensure Kabbalat Shabbat is tuneful
  • Ensure every sermon is short and audible
  • Arrange quality guest chazanim and ba’alei tefillah (service leaders)
  • Don’t recite memorial prayers or prayers for the sick on Shabbat mornings
  • Reintroduce personal mi-sheberachs and memorial prayers
  • Reintroduce Hashkoma (early morning) service
  • Consider alternatives to the regular style of service (remove elements)
  • Increase page announcements and explanatory comments on the service
  • Offer explanatory services
  • Recite some prayers in English
  • Reduce repetition
  • Explore options to honour women on Shabbat
  • Allow women to read prayers for the Royal Family and the Defence of the State of Israel
  • Allow pre-batmitzvah girls to sing Anim Zemirot
  • Reintroduce Ashrei and Anim Zemirot rotas
  • Reinstate the Dvar Torah after the communal kiddush
Religious Services: Timing
  • Make Shabbat and YomTov services enjoyable, brisk but dignified
  • End the fixation with the speed and duration of the service
  • Pre-advise members of aliyot (avoid delaying the service wherever possible)
  • Introduce coffee break/kiddush before leining
  • End the Shabbat morning service by a specific time (11:30/12:00) followed by a communal kiddush, …


Religious Services: Physical Layout
  • Change the position of the mechitzah to enhance women’s experience
  • Change shul seating layout to account for smaller attendances
  • Invite inspirational guest speakers – religious and cultural topics, question (and answer) of the week
  • Plan educational sessions (by Rabbi and Rebbetzen) before all Chagim
  • Arrange series of talks on topics of contemporary interest
  • Restart Sunday morning breakfast with shiur
  • Pre-barmitzvah boys and fathers to attend Sunday Shacharit services
  • Encourage pre-barmitzvah/batmizvah families to attend services, guided by Community Directors
  • Encourage barmitzvah boys to read torah/haftorah each anniversary
  • Pay teenagers to lead children’s services
  • Encourage teenagers to daven and lein
  • Consider options for more effective use of remote participation
  • Arrange more discussion groups
  • Train members in CPR and First Aid
  • Develop programmes for children of all ages
Social & Welfare
  • Turn One Cecil Park into a JW3-style ‘campus of Jewish culture’, with a shul attached
  • Organize social gatherings
  • Broaden coffee club concept, providing a ‘schmooze’ area on Shabbat morning
  • Provide cheaper sponsorship packages for weekly kiddush
  • Improve content of weekly communal kiddush
  • Arrange kiddush in private homes (mini ‘Shabbat UK’-style)
  • Publicize availability of a creche on Shabbat mornings
  • Arrange communal meals on Friday night, Shabbat and YomTov
  • Provide a small-scale seudah every Shabbat afternoon
  • Consider options to address health and mobility issues (travel to shul on Shabbat)
  • Invite families to celebrate special/lifecycle occasions with members in shul
  • (Rabbi to) approach and know wider membership
  • (Rabbi to) look after the ‘core’ membership
  • (Rabbi to) contact directly (ie via personal contact rather than email/message) those members who have not returned to shul and welcome them back

Suggested Approach from George White

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