What To Do When Your Jewish Organization Feels Stuck

Do you ever find yourself sitting at some kind of meeting for the Jewish community and it just hits you that the organization is stuck?”

Are you nodding your head?

Rabbi Mike Uram might be able to help. The question comes from his book Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations, and Uram will be in the Twin Cities on March 7 and 8 to dive into his strategies for change with our Jewish community at the first-ever Harry Kay Leadership Summit.

You don’t have to work with Hillel or college students to benefit from these ideas: the strategies in the book relate to all Jewish organizations. “The way all people relate to institutions is changing,” says Uram, executive director of Penn Hillel. “My book is about staying away from that binary thinking of ‘keep doing what we’re doing or throw it all out.’ It’s a very pragmatic look at building a bridge between the organizations we have now doing important work, and the organizations we may need in the future.”

A fair warning for Jewish communal professionals and volunteers: Uram’s comments may sting. He suggests moving away from the phrase “the Jewish community,” a phrase that yields 108 pages of search results here on TC Jewfolk (and has been used three times so far in this article.) He also suggests that most Jewish organizations’ outreach strategies inadvertently ignore 75 percent of Jews, and that constantly trying to fix perceived problems is actually making everything worse.

“I’m trying to change the conversation about how we think about Jewish life,” says Uram. “If we only try to solve the same problems over and over again, we’re all a little bit stuck.”

On March 7, all are welcome to attend the Uram’s free keynote address at the Harry Kay Leadership Summit at 7 pm. The next morning, Uram will lead a workshop and breakfast for professionals who work at Jewish organizations, synagogues, and schools. Jewish organizational professionals in the Twin Cities.

Uram’s research draws from decades of lessons learned from Hillel International. In the early 90s, Hillel made a radical change: it broke from its major funder, B’nai Brith, and no longer required students to be members to participate. Since then, Hillel has been on the cutting edge of engagement. According to Uram, it has to be.

“We work with college students – he environment doesn’t have institutional memory and affiliation. New students show up every year,” Uram says. The culture of innovation created at Penn Hillel allows the organization to reach just over 90 percent of Jewish students on campus each year.

“It’s been inspiring and humbling to see how the book has caught on,” says Uram. “Using the engagement methodology in the book can double the number of people you’re reaching.

Intrigued? Grab a copy of Next Generation Judaism or see Rabbi Mike Uram at one of the Harry Kay Leadership Summit Events:

March 7 | 7 PM | DQ Room at TCF Bank Stadium

All are welcome at this free leadership summit. Registration required.

March 8 | 8:30 AM | Minnesota Hillel

A working breakfast for professionals who work at Jewish organizations, synagogues, and schools. Registration required.

The Harry Kay Leadership Summit is sponsored by the Harry Kay Alumni Network, Minnesota Hillel, the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. Breakfast generously provided by the Gil Mann Together We Endowment Fund, a designated fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.