Envision Beth Chaim's Future
Transition Committee Findings
The Transition Committee heard from hundreds of congregants in the past few months from our Transition Survey and our Envision the Future discussions at Beth Chaim and in members’ homes.
Congregants were eager to share their ideas, and several big themes emerged - including the importance of recruiting and retaining members, practicing inclusiveness, and emphasizing Jewish education at all levels. Maintaining and growing programming, for all age levels, was frequently mentioned.
Congregants also want to feel safe and accepted at Beth Chaim. They want to keep Judaic traditions alive, while also exploring new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Many congregants raised concerns about keeping Beth Chaim financially accessible, and encouraged the board to explore new financial and membership models. Suggestions included rethinking the use of our building and potentially renting out space to help drive revenue.
Congregants were asked about five-year goals for the synagogue and gave varied responses, saying members need “the courage to build our identity” and the synagogue needs to define how it is “special, unique and attractive” to the Jewish community at large. Many wanted Beth Chaim to become a “center for Jewish life” in Central New Jersey. Others mentioned the need to give the new rabbi “tools to succeed.”
This valuable input heard over these past few months will be vital for our clergy, staff and the Board of Trustees. While our congregants were overwhelmingly positive, some said we must do better. Your comments were heard, and the synagogue’s leadership is currently looking at how to make improvements to communications, membership retention, and programming and education.
Transition Progress Report
As we prepare to welcome in the Jewish New Year, and as we enter the second year of our Rabbinic transition, we are happy to present you with this progress report on the changes we've seen in the past year, and to keep you up to date on what happens next.
We experienced many changes in the past year, from celebrating the retirement of our longtime Rabbi Eric Wisnia and welcoming Brian Beal as our Interim Senior Rabbi through June 2020. Rabbi Beal has been assisting Rabbi Adena Blum and leading the congregation as Beth Chaim continues to evolve.
The committee formed to select our next Senior Rabbi recommended to the Board of Trustees that Rabbi Blum is the ideal candidate to lead Beth Chaim forward. In arriving at this decision, the Committee used input gathered from our congregants during focus group discussions and a survey conducted this past spring.
Beth Chaim is progressing through the transition process with a purpose, finding opportunities for growth, while honoring our past.
During the upcoming High Holidays, you will hear about some new initiatives for the year 5780. We have an exciting year ahead, as many committees have been formed in response to the suggestions and issues raised by congregants during our focus group meetings last spring.
Below are some answers to questions you may have about our ongoing transition at Beth Chaim.
Why isn't Rabbi Blum starting as Senior Rabbi right away?
Between now and the end of next June, Rabbi Blum will work with Rabbi Beal to ensure a smooth transition. She is firmly supportive of the recommended transition process outlined for Reform synagogues. This next year provides Rabbi Blum with an opportunity to closely examine the data from the surveys and focus groups and allows her time to explore new ideas for Beth Chaim’s future. Rabbi Blum will be meeting with groups of congregants in the year ahead and is eager to hear their suggestions and to share her vision for the next chapter of our congregation.
Why is it important that Rabbi Beal stay to help us through this next year?
Rabbi Beal is highly experienced in managing synagogues undergoing leadership change. Not only is Rabbi Beal helping and preparing Rabbi Blum to assume her new role as spiritual leader of Beth Chaim, he is also working with the staff, clergy and Board to encourage them to explore new ways of doing things. Additionally, he has been putting processes into place to help the business of the synagogue run more smoothly and efficiently.
What is the plan for Rabbi Wisnia's return?
Rabbi Wisnia was named our Emeritus Rabbi upon his retirement.
Discussions are underway with Rabbi Wisnia to finalize his new role, and we plan to communicate the details very soon.