Temple Beth Tikvah wants to forge a new generation of Jewish leaders.
The Wayne Reform synagogue last month graduated its inaugural class of ‘8 students from its new Kadima Institute, a leadership program the temple developed last year to create that new generation.
Students signed up in January and February for the four-month course, led by management training consultant and temple member Harvey Hendler. Each month the program held one four-hour session on how to be a leader. While the synagogue wanted to reach out for new leadership, Hendler said reactions from the students when they signed up were consistent: They had wanted to get involved for a while, but didn’t know how.
"There was this pent-up demand to help grow the synagogue but people didn’t know how to get started," he told The Jewish Standard Monday.
Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne graduated its inaugural class of ‘8 from its Kadima Institute leadership program at a Shabbat dinner on June ”.
Beth Tikvah’s leaders looked at the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program and the Synagogue Leadership Initiative of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, but those required longer commitments of time than the congregation wanted.
"We had a need for instant gratification," Hendler said. "We needed to put something in place to get a group of leaders hitting the runway to be effective starting with the new Jewish year."
Topics covered included: the job of a Jewish nonprofit volunteer leader; how to create a project plan; the 10 commandments of Jewish leadership; what the customer wants; and a panel discussion with past temple presidents. One of the programs, what the customer wants, was led by Judy Beck, director of SLI.
Beth Tikvah completely subsidized the program, with the agreement that each of the students would develop a project to benefit the synagogue. Some collaborated, but in the end, they came up with 15 projects to benefit the shul.
Audrey Nash, a member of Beth Tikvah for 13 years, decided to organize a series of Jewish cooking lessons for parents and their children. The four-session course will begin after the High Holy Days and target parents of pre-b’nai mitzvah kids. The goal is to get the parents involved so they do not "vanish after bar mitzvah," Nash said.
Nash’s husband, Jeff, has been on Beth Tikvah’s board for two years but she does not see the board as her goal. Rather, after taking the Kadima course, she wants to lead different projects for the shul and to get other people involved.
"I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take the course to get involved," she said. "It was fun and rewarding."
As a sales trainer for a food distributor and a mother of two, Nash, like many people, has only limited time, but that is not a factor for her when it comes to Beth Tikvah.
"You always make time for the right thing," she said.
Other Kadima graduates feel the same way, which has pleased the synagogue’s leadership.
"What we were hoping to accomplish was getting people interested in being active in the temple to assume the roles of the Jewish leaders," said Michael Rudolph, a member of Beth Tikvah’s board and coordinator of the Kadima program. "The best [phrase to describe the result] is ‘beyond our wildest imagination.’"
Originally, the board had hoped for 1′ people to sign up. Instead ‘8 graduated, with a near-perfect attendance record. Plans are already under way to hold a second Kadima program in January. So far, a dozen people, some who had wanted to join this year’s trial class but couldn’t because of scheduling, have expressed interest in next year.
"There’s always a need for new leadership," Rudolph said. "The urgent portion of the need is we needed to get people in their late 30s to 50s. If you don’t do that, then you get an aging leadership. We needed to get people involved so there would be a continuum of leadership."
Alyse Halligan has a 10-year-old daughter in Beth Tikvah’s Hebrew school and a 7-year-old son who will enter it in September. She’s become good friends with the temple’s administrator, Ellen Goldin, who recommended the program to her.
"If I feel that something isn’t right, I will in a nice way say, ‘Hey, how can we make this better?’" She added that Goldin had said, "’We’re starting a new leadership program,’ and asked me to be involved."
Now working on two projects, Halligan wants to make a mark on the shul she attended growing up but from which she drifted away. Her first project is on sanctuary decorum, which would cover how to dress when entering the synagogue and how to act while there. Her other project is working on a gift card program that would send a percentage of the money it brings in to a nonprofit group.
"I really feel good that I’m involved, that I’m a Jew who will make a difference at my place of worship," she said.
The group will come together again in August for a session on how to be a good committee member and how to lead a committee. In the fall, Hendler is planning a follow-up to track everybody’s progress on their projects, some of which are planned to take up to two years. In addition to Halligan’s and Nash’s projects, others include repairing the stained glass wall in Beth Tikvah’s sanctuary, donating children’s toys to local hospitals, promoting the religious school, and developing a monthly Shabbat dinner program.
"When the temple started," 50 years ago, "everybody was enthusiastic. For the longest period of time there were plenty of people to step up," said Rudolph. "Our idea is we’re doing that now. We’re not finished with this class."