In 2012 and 2013, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman delivered three lectures at Temple Beth-El regarding the past, present and future of Judaism, with an emphasis on what will be needed to ensure a strong future for Judaism in America. Rabbi Hoffman challenged our congregants to make the most of our legacies as individuals and as an institution.
Dr. Hoffman inspired our congregation to embark on a process of self-examination that we call “Project ToBE.” The project began in March 2014. It has involved our congregants in conversation about our hopes, aspirations, and concerns. Three hundred congregants took part in conversations in members’ homes. Those conversations are enabling our congregation to become the place where we experience (as Rabbi Hoffman himself puts it in his book ReThinking Synagogues) “curiosity about God, connection with the sacred, a sense of life’s purpose, and . . . build a life narrative alongside others who are doing the same thing.” While Temple Beth-El has always taken pride in providing a setting where our congregants can learn to search for answers to life’s most important questions, Project ToBE is ensuring that all our congregants have the opportunity to shape and be part of our sacred Jewish community.
Project ToBE also included a census of our congregation. Two hundred fifty of our congregants answered a series of questions to help us better understand the religious practices and beliefs of our community. The census, in tandem with our conversations, are helping us to see who we are; what makes us unique; and how we can best meet the needs of our members.
Rabbi Hoffman, a leading authority on synagogue transformation, guided Temple Beth-El through Phase 1 of Project ToBE. In Phase 2, our rabbis, cantor, professional and lay leadership, and our congregants themselves will work to make our synagogue the place to which we turn to help us meet life’s challenges and opportunities.
The Project ToBE team published our Congregational Shema:
INSPIRE THROUGH PURPOSE
BE KNOWN BY LOVE.
It is a statement of who we are, based in part on what we have learned in conversations and through the census.
As part of Phase 2, known as “2BE,” various task forces are at work to implement many of the goals we identified in the first phase of Project ToBE. Among other things, affinity groups are holding regular meetings; more conversations, focusing on specific topics, are taking place; we are working to ensure that we are there for one another in “Times of Need;” Shabbat Eve dinners at our congregants homes (“Shabbat@Home”) are taking place; and “The Music of 2BE” has been launched.