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Kehillah Builders: Inreach, Outreach and Membership

"Being a Reconstructionist Congregation or Havurah means taking the building of sacred community to heart. Our purpose is to reach in and reach out - that is, to extend ourselves inwardly to our existing community, and also to reach out to the unaffiliated and the searching and offer them ways into our community. It means conscious efforts to grow, strengthen, and deepen the love for our community, the Jewish people and the world at large."

Adapted from the Inreach/Outreach Committee of Reconstructionist Congregation Beth Emeth, New York
The overall growth of our movement has been tremendous over the last decade. Most of our communities are dealing with meeting new needs: increased staffing, more physical space, financial resources, youth and adult education programs, lifecycle and spiritual support, planned growth and outreach, and more services in general.

It is important that we understand the interconnections between effective outreach and inreach. Far too often there is a tendency to equate growth only with quantitative increases in membership. A proactive and consciously framed in/outreach campaign recognizes the way this work invigorates every aspect of a community. Such work helps a congregation to better serve its current members, to reevaluate its mission and to deepen its community bonds. The importance of this work is magnified when attached to conversations about inclusion, outreach, Jewish identity, public relations, and building faith communities. However, through study, effective listening and open discussion of our attitudes and expectations, we can turn a potentially challenging subject into a profound opportunity for building relationships and community.

As a living dynamic system, no community that seeks to reconstruct and renew itself can retain its vitality and vision without effective outreach and internal growth, linked to programs that support their faith communities and religious cultures at large. What we are trying to develop is a workable system where the process of reaching in and reaching out is attuned to our purpose and mission in a way that reflects our values and inspires deepened Jewish living and responsible membership in our global community.

Being a Kehillah Builder is an opportunity to educate ourselves around issues of consciously growing our communities, and the approaches and structures by which we might do this. This is a profoundly Reconstructionist educational process, as we look at our own attitudes on a given subject, studying traditional and contemporary Jewish sources, examining global approaches, sharing resources, information and insight with each other, and exploring ways to educate and inspire our home communities to incorporate these ideas.

We hope that this and the other Kehillah Builders resources help you discover your own values-based approach to building sacred community, and enable you to do this in Godly ways that deepen your relationships, Jewish identity and religious life. In this way, we can continue to create and develop holy and whole communities.
"What does it mean to join Am Haskalah? Member of what? As I see it, we are both a community and a congregation. A community is a network of relationships. You join it by taking part. The more you take, the more you will build those relationships, the more connected you will feel, and the more our community will grow.

While the community is an informal network, the congregation is a formal organization. We have bylaws, officers, committees, employees, income and expenses. To be a member you have to fill out a form and pay your dues. The congregation provides the platform, the structure, in today's parlance, the hardware. The community is the software, the spirit and the real soul. I believe that if you are going to be a member of this community, you have a responsibility at some point to joining the congregation. And if you are a member of the congregation, please be a part of this community.

Cary Oshins, Past-President of Am Haskalah, Allentown, PA
Type: Article

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