Listening Campaign 2023 Comments Summary and Board Responses
This is a high-level summary of some of the comments that arose repeatedly as canvassers listened to members of our community. The focus is on general comments about our community and activities and not on the personal preferences of individuals. Summary of comments is in bold, board responses are in italics.
- Rabbi Hannah: Much praise for Rabbi Hannah, especially with respect to her support during members’ personal life events as well as her efforts to attract and engage new members and young families.
Board response: Rabbi Hannah took her mandate to make Or Shalom a multi-generational shul very seriously and many more spiritual seekers and families have found their way to a richer Jewish life through Or Shalom and Rabbi Hannah’s efforts at outreach and inclusivity.
- Zusia: Lots of positive comments about the classes and Matthew. Some requests to have classes on Zoom so that those who are not comfortable attending in person could participate.
Board response: The board leaves this decision to individual teachers, encouraging them to use remote teaching as an option if they are comfortable. Most teachers say they find it easier to have purely in-house or purely on Zoom, it is complicated to run a hybrid class and have discussions where everyone can participate and hear. Matthew has been offering classes in both modes: in-person evening classes and on-zoom lunchtime ones.
- Use of Zoom: Lots of support for continuing hybrid services, but also for encouraging members to attend in person. Some comments that a budget should be created to pay for technical help to run Zoom.
Board response: In June the board voted to continue broadcasting hybrid services because of this feedback. It takes at least two people to make hybrid services possible: we called for more volunteers to take on the role of zoom shamash and zoom camera operator and people committed to this mitzvah are stepping forward. The board feels it is not a responsible use of funds to hire a professional to work every Shabbat, since a minimum time commitment and current rates would make this expense several thousand dollars per year. We have also investigated ways to make this task less technical but that would require significant upgrades to our camera and network infrastructure, so will continue to rely on volunteers.
- New members, especially young families: Many positive comments about all the new members, especially those with young children. Some long-standing members identified the importance of balancing programming to specific constituencies while also providing inclusive programming that continues to strengthen our diverse community.
Board response: With Rabbi Hannah the board set out to ensure Or Shalom’s future by becoming a multi-generational community and we have gone a long way towards achieving that goal. We’ve added new staff and programs and have an active Child, Youth, and Family committee that programs for the interests of families. A monthly catered Friday night dinner, enabled by the CY&F committee’s pursuit of a Federation grant, is for young families, and we encourage all Or Shalomniks to participate in all events of interest to them.
At this year’s board workshop, we pursued the idea of moving from a multi-generational community to an intra-generational community, working more proactively to link generations together through shared events, rather than simply existing side by side without much interaction. As you can imagine it takes even more listening, planning, and preparation on the part of the rabbi and staff to hold intra-generational events.
One manifestation of the intra-generational approach is to once again welcome children and babies into the sanctuary during Shabbat mornings, and the creation of a kids’ play area in the north-west corner. Although there has been some concern expressed by some long-term members about additional sound during services, we feel that having children in the services, hearing prayers, and sharing in the holy space we create on Shabbat is a mitzvah that will benefit us all for decades to come.
- Services: We should have regular, traditional services every Shabbat, removing the need to check the calendar or Doar to find out what is happening at shul. Contemplative service is good, but perhaps at another time so that regular services happen every week. Praise for Shabbat Soul and Kabbalat Shabbat service in general.
Board response: We welcome and encourage Rabbi Hannah’s pursuit of a wider range of Shabbat morning offerings, and feel the benefit is worth the time it takes members to read the Doar to know what the next Shabbat offering will be. Having two separate services might decrease our goal of an intra-generational synagogue, but we will keep listening on this topic as Or Shalom grows.
Shabbat Soul is another addition to the experiments of creative liturgy. Overall, Kabbalat Shabbat is an area we would all like to expand Or Shalom events.
- Communication with the community: Many requests for more communication with the community about how the renovations project is proceeding, about budget, and other items.
Board response: The board has been putting some funding pieces in place while the committee works with the City of Vancouver and our architect. This will naturally be a large topic for a community meeting or at the next AGM.
- Retreat: Wish for bringing back the retreat.
Board response: That is a wish shared by many people. There used to be an annual retreat held near Hope, BC on the May long weekend. Members of the retreat committee that had organized the annual event at Camp Hope stepped down after many years of service and no others stepped in to replace them. Also, it was increasingly hard to budget a break-even event when so many of the families who wanted to attend needed subsidies. So, as with many other things we’d like to do, all we need is volunteers and funds.
- Torah study: Very appealing, but hard to attend during the work week.
Board response: Shamanu (we hear you). This program evolved from past Torah study activities but indeed it is attended by people who have retired or have a flexible work schedule.
- Administration: Recognition that R’Hannah is very busy and the need for an executive director.
Board response: The board is pursuing some funding options that would enable us to hire an executive director, and will share news with the community if and when that funding comes through.
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