As many of you know, last year Ramat Shalom began an innovative project known as The Center for Jewish Life. The Center was a project that I was inspired to pursue as a result of my Fellowship with Rabbis Without Borders. Its primary goal was to reach out to the 90% of unaffiliated Jews in Broward County and provide them with a connection to Judaism – a connection that would encourage them to become more involved with Ramat Shalom. Thanks to the support of the national team at Rabbis Without Borders, our own Board of Directors, the generosity of our member Craig Lamm and the leadership of my wife, Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, The Center for Jewish Life has grown and evolved over the past year. We have helped many folks find a meaningful connection to Judaism and, at the same time, strengthened the Ramat Shalom family. In April, I was invited to speak about The Center for Jewish Life at the annual meeting of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Leadership and Learning in New York City, where I received tremendous support for our program. As we move forward, we expect that our outreach efforts will continue to attract national attention and provide meaningful ways for the unaffiliated to connect with Judaism. In addition, our efforts will encourage membership growth here at Ramat Shalom and subsidize many of the synagogue’s programs and events.
Earlier this year, in an effort to ensure that The Center for Jewish Life would truly strengthen our community, we engaged in a visioning process with a professional consulting team at no expense to Ramat Shalom. This visioning process helped us further develop our goals and mission while transforming The Center for Jewish Life into a truly unique program that would appeal to a vast number of spiritual seekers. The results of this process have been incredible.
We learned very quickly in the process that if we are trying to appeal to unaffiliated Jews, many of whom are turned off by institutionalized religion, The Center for Jewish Life is the wrong name. Further, we learned that there are many spiritual seekers out there who might not officially identify as Jewish, but are very interested in exploring our faith and eventually finding a spiritual home among us. Over the past several months, Rabbi Cheryl has officiated at numerous conversion ceremonies and welcomed proud new Jews into our community.
As part of our visioning process, we were encouraged us to create an interactive website that will enable us to expand our outreach efforts well beyond Broward County and help an even larger audience engage spiritually with Judaism. Further, we talked about how there are many pathways to Judaism – each pathway leading folks closer to a meaningful connection with our faith. All of this encouraged us to change our name from The Center for Jewish Life to ISH – Innovation, Spirituality, Home. At ISH, your path can be left-ish, your path can be right-ish, your path can be somewhere in between-ish. At ISH, you will always find something meaningful and always connect to something Jewish. (For a great article on the birth of ISH as a word click here.)
Rabbi Cheryl is the Director of ISH. As with The Center for Jewish Life, Cantor Debbie and I play no role in ISH lifecycle events. We are here for our members. I will be teaching some online courses at ISH and I am excited to announce that all of ISH’s online learning programs and other events will be accessible to Ramat Shalom members, including an online Kabbalah class that I will be teaching beginning the end of the month. ISH’s website officially launches this weekend. I invite you to check it out – www.FindYourISH.com. For those of you who enjoyed last year’s High Holiday’s Gratitude Project, I encourage you to take part in ISH’s 30 Days of Gratitude which begins this weekend on the ISH Blog.