We can accomplish so much more together.
My vision for 2025 sets forth a renewal of our community as a welcoming, strong, stable, inclusive, and supportive ecosystem for Jewish life. The vision speaks to the idea that our Jewish community is knitted integrally together, where pluralism is a value rooted in Jewish ideas and tradition.
What do you think about the idea of an inviting and irresistible Center for Jewish Life described in my Ahoy Matey article? This concept is one of several options that may contribute to our local ability to adapt and thrive as a Jewish community in the 21st century. South Bend will be a Jewish community known for its scope and depth of programs—a magnet for young Jewish people and families as a model pluralistic community, a voice for Israel, a leader in interfaith work, and a community with a Jewish heart and soul.
From the beginning, humans have depended on community for survival. Today, the South Bend Jewish evolution continues as we forge new connections and embrace community. In examining viable future scenarios, the Center for Jewish Life offers a fresh and innovative paradigm to propel our community forward.
As a beacon of light, the Center’s purpose will be to illuminate our future with nourishing, vibrant relationships, culture, art, music, and personal and community spiritual rejuvenation. After all, being Jewish is a team sport; you can’t play it alone. When you think about it, every part of our structure, culture, and tradition requires B’yachad—togetherness. We pray in a minyan, a gathering of at least ten others. We mourn together in Shiva. We even come together to support each other in times of need, as we did at our recent Concert for Israel and Stand in Solidarity with Israel events.
As we envision our future, let’s embody the Jewish and Midwestern values we hold in high esteem to guide our community transformation. The essential ingredients in our Midwest Jewish Michiana melting pot are hard work, caring for the community, a sense of humility, close family ties, doing what is right.
Knowing that we are currently deeply enmeshed in our organizational silos, it may be radical to say the transformation to a vibrant Center for Jewish Life requires rethinking the membership model. We’re familiar with the old economic model of paying synagogue membership dues for services that became popular in the 20th century.
However, if we are to champion a new pluralistic community, a new, more eclectic funding model to support this campus concept for Jewish life will need to be developed. A creative, multifaceted revenue stream could encompass philanthropic giving, fees for service, programming revenue, special fundraising appeals, grants, and endowments.
In the final analysis, a more holistic Jewish community that sustains and encourages journeys that leave no one behind requires fresh and innovative thinking.
Our success in building this holistic model will drive the value creation of the Center. The measure of success of this joint enterprise is our ability to create points of access into Jewish life that effectively address individual needs and preferences.
I love the power of this idea because it enables us to reimagine our South Bend “Jewish” brand, its purpose, and how we deliver a personalized experience to cultivate community engagement.
The new thinking around the Center rekindles enduring and cherished values, such as the biblical account of supporting the community. Each shall give a half-shekel (Exodus 30.13). The beauty of the biblical model is that everyone in the community contributes.
With broad support and “skin in the game,” the leadership team will be responsible for stretching our dollar through operating efficiencies.
Finally, the Center for Jewish Life - South Bend will need to attract and retain young Jewish people and families in the area by developing a comprehensive recruiting plan. We’d do well to take a page out of the recruiting playbook of our growing Torah-based community. To view the recruitment video Why South Bend, please visit SBTorahLife.com.
The Center offers many amenities for engagement through its community room, picnic pavilion, playground, ball field, walking trails, low ropes course, and more. As always, confidential assistance from Jewish Family Services is available to all.
The importance of feeling welcome is rooted in a core value of Judaism expressed in the very first chapter of the Torah. The Center’s heartbeat of kindness and hospitality is the mission’s lifeblood. Human empathy is vital to our goals and success as it requires a mindful focus on the needs of others.
May we have the strength to create a community of welcome. The mitzvah of welcoming guests, or hachnasat orchim, is not just about inviting people in but also making everyone on our campus feel honored, relaxed, and at home.