Shul Solutions June 2014
 June 2014                                                             Issue 6                                                           Sivan 5774
The Year in Review

by Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, Executive Director

What new has Young Israel accomplished in the 11 months since the new administration began?
  1. Got our own house in order. We significantly lowered all our expenses, changed much of our staff, organized our finances and all compliance issues.
  2. Went on the road- We are listening to what you need. I have spent Shabbat in many of your communities nationwide and Ari Matityahu has met with many of your boards.
  3. Saved you money- Over 40 Young Israels are participating in energy savings. Many shuls are taking advantage of our ShulCloud discount. Shuls are receiving security grants. We are far along with group health, liability and D&O insurance. Shuls will be receiving group purchasing information later this week.
  4. Communicating useful information- We launched a new website and created videos to reflect what NCYI does today, tweet & Facebook daily. 
  5. Doing things right- An audit committee was appointed, abuse training for Achva counselors was conducted, our relationship with our subordinates was reestablished.
  6. Giving you material for Shabbos groups - Our weekly Parsha Nation Shabbos morning group guides have been well received.
  7. Training Gabbaim- The third call answering gabbaim’s questions will take place on July 7, this time on the topic “All About Kaddish”. 
  8. Sharing Best Practices has been the focus of our monthly Shul Solutions newsletters. Please share your great ideas!
  9. Developing Rabbis- Biweekly Q&A calls with Rabbi Mordechai Willig, the Practical Pulpit newsletter, webinars on Pesach and Safrut are just the beginning.
  10. Servicing Seniors and Teens- We have begun servicing 2 great unknown programs we sponsor in the New York Area- our Senior Centers and Basketball League. 
There is so much more to do! We have begun work on Sephardic Services. We will visit your shul to hear what you need. Please share your suggestions and feedback with us!

Table of Contents

 Year in Review

Servicing Sephardim at Your Shul 

Bring Bnei Akiva Shlichim & Bnot Sherut to Your Community 

Inspiring High Holiday Youth Groups

Summer Planning= Amazing Year

Touro University System

Servicing Sephardim at Your Shul

by Bob LeviYoung Israel Shomrai Emunah, MD

Numerous Ashkenazi synagogues in North America, including many Young Israels, host a growing number of Sephardim, whose nusach, mesorah and minhagim may seem foreign – even to many experienced Ashkenazic rabbis. This cultural variance, if not embraced and addressed with great sensitivity, can present a challenge to the achdut of a shul. Therefore, it should be a shul’s goal to effectively integrate all the members of our Young Israels, providing a welcome environment and providing opportunities to become deeply vested in our kehillot.
Bringing Our Rabbis Up to Speed- Our rabbis should become more familiar with Sephardic lifecycle events, so if called upon, they will feel comfortable officiating at them. Currently, the National Council of Young Israel is developing a rabbinic guide to enable Ashkenazi rebbeim feel more at ease in responding to such requests from their Sephardic congregants.
A Separate Minyan- If there is a critical mass of Sephardim, synagogues should establish a Sephardic minyan. It is extremely important to most Sephardim to transmit their distinct nusach, mesorah and liturgical minhagim to their children. The organizers of our shul’s Sephardic minyan secured the strong support of Rav Gedaliah Anemer zt”l and the shul membership agreed to create a Beit Medrash that could accommodate the minyan.
Which Nusach?- A minhag hamakom needs to be established. There is a kaleidoscope of Sephardic traditions: Morrocan, Syrian, Yemenite, Iraqi and Persian, to name just a few. The decision as to which siddur to use and the liturgy to be practiced needed to be addressed. It is not as simple as Ashkenazim choosing from among the Artscroll, Birnbaum, Koren, or Rinat Yisrael Siddur. This is a challenging exercise which must be handled with the utmost diplomatic skill.
Leadership- In addition, in its formative years, our Sephardic minyan was blessed with a number of Sephardim with smicha who could help navigate the unique lifecycle events and customs practiced by the minyan participants. In part, this included training Bar Mitzvah boys to read their parasha and Haftorah with a Sephardic taamim (trope). Eventually, our Young Israel board decided to officially designate a rabbi to be the spiritual guide for the minyan. The rabbi was an established member and leader of the Sephardic minyan. In addition, to being the arbiter of Sephardic practice within the minyan, he provides divrei Torah, with an emphasis on traditional Sephardic sources.
Intergration- The most important contributor to the successful integration of a Sephardic minyan is that it not be insulated from the rest of the shul. The minyan must be accepted as full participant in all shul activities and the minyan’s activities should be accessible to the rest of the shul community.  For example, our Sephardic minyan sponsors a seudat shlishit almost every Shabbat (though our Ashkenzakic minyanim do not have one) and the entire shul is warmly accepted at these meals. To the best of our ability, we coordinate the Shabbat morning davening to permit our main minyan and the Sephardic minyan to join together in a shulwide kiddush. In addition, the shul rav periodically davens with Sephardic minyan and provides divrei Torah.

It is important to underscore the importance that the Young Israel Rav is the marah d’asra of the entire shul – not just the Ashkenazi members of it. Moreover, the Sephardic minyan must recognize that it is part of the shul- not independent of the shul. This means membership dues and other shul obligations must be assumed by participants of the minyan.
Young Israels should recognize the cultural diversity of our Orthodox community, and to create an atmosphere where we can all daven together under the same roof, though not always in the same room. 

Notes from the Field
What Bnei Akiva Shlichim & Bnot Sherut
Can Do For Your Community


by Monica Rosen Genet, YI of Hollywood, FL

The Bnei Akiva Program, along with its shlichim or bnot sherut, brings Zionism to your shul and to your community. 
The young Israelis serve as excellent role models for your youth- especially your teenagers.  They don’t just talk the Religious Zionist talk- they walk the walk.
These young people have served in the army or performed national service for children or special needs adults. The shlichim are observant and committed to their yiddishkeit. It is part of who they are.  In America we struggle with how to raise our children to be caring, committed to halacha, philanthropic and unspoiled, despite the affluent communities in which they are growing up. The shlichim represent a living, breathing Torah Judaism that puts the needs of the nation and their people above their own.
Bnei Akiva begins with weekly Shabbat or bi-monthly programs (peulot) for younger grades that are fun, educational and infused with Torah and a Zionist message.  The peulot are led by your community’s teenage leaders under the guidance of the rosh snif (head youth leader) and your shlichim.  Throughout the year there are special programs like Tzahal Night, Shuk Purim and Israeli Movie Night, to name a few. The year culminates in a Yom Hazikaron Remembrance/ Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration, which is beautiful and bittersweet. There won’t be a dry eye in your shul as you sing Hatikva with your children, teenagers, senior members and new found family of shlichim.
The influence works both ways.  Your community has the opportunity to have an impact on your shlichim as well.  They learn that the communities in the Diaspora care about Israel, and care about it and its citizens passionately.
The relationships that are created through Shabbat meals, programming or just taking your Israeli guests to a museum, zoo or picnic are everlasting.  After the shlichim and Bnot Sherut return to Israel, they stay in touch with your children via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and continue to share their lives with one another.  Your kids will spend Shabbat in their homes during their Israel gap year. Your youth will learn Israel advocacy and your shlichim will see firsthand that all Jews ‘arevim zeh lah zeh’-are there for one another.
Monica Rosen Genet was head of the Bnei Akiva Parents Board (vaad horim) for several years in Hollywood, Florida. Her sons were madrichim and roshei snif and those of age have served in the Israeli army. 

Summer Planning = A Great Year Ahead 

by Reva Homnick, Young Israel of Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Synagogue Administrators and Executive Directors know that there is crunch time, and then there is CRUNCH time! The difference is best illustrated by a phone call that my 11 year old son made to me just last week. “Mom, when are you coming home?”  “Soon honey, why is everything ok?”  “Yeah but its 6:30 p.m. and you’re not home yet.” “I know I’m leaving in 5 minutes, I promise” “Mom, it’s not Journal season, it’s not Kol Nidre, you finished the budget, why aren’t you home?!”

What should be your priorities during the “down times”? Use the summer months to do the things that got pushed off during the year. Sit down with your House Committee and your Custodians and map out the physical improvements of the building that you couldn’t get to during the year such as painting and patching, repairing the big things you couldn’t tackle in the busy season of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and holidays.  Replacing carpets during the three weeks when there are no simchas on the calendar is a good one.

Summer is the time to schedule the entire year.  Our first calendar meeting includes every department head before everyone leaves for the summer.  If someone is not available, then they can submit (in writing) their plans and dates for next year. Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Adult Ed, Youth Department, Bnei Akiva, and (if possible) the local day school. Everyone that has an impact on the scheduling of programs needs to be at that meeting. Sit down with them, hand out a copy of a Jewish calendar with everything you already know is scheduled. Then help them select dates for their programs. Don’t have fundraisers too close together.  We have a policy that no branch can have their big fundraiser 3 weeks before or 2 weeks after our shul dinner. Of course, things come up during the year, but this is a great way to lock in the programs you know are a must.

It seems almost impossible to re-design and spice up the website and monthly newsletter when you are in the throes of “the season”.  The quiet of the summer is the perfect time to tinker yourself or follow-up with the shul’s members who are able to help spruce up the shul’s website.

High Holiday seating should be tackled in the summer months as well. Send out the High Holiday seat requests in mid-June. Send it with the Member’s Statement. Give your congregant a deadline as to when their balance must be paid in full or a payment plan put in place before they can get the seat assigned. This works REALLY well.

Plan for the holidays. If your shul needs to rent additional space, call around, negotiate the rent, order the additional chairs. Whatever can be done in advance, do it in advance!
Kol Nidre is a great fundraiser. Each member of your shul should be getting a call way in advance of Rosh Hashanah. Have a meeting with your Executive Board, Rabbis etc. and put together your spreadsheet of who is calling whom. Make sure the list has correct phone numbers and email addresses. Give your solicitors the tools they need to be successful such as what the member gave in the last few years.

Lastly, take a little time off to just relax because the CRUNCH Season begins again!

A Creative Solution to a Familiar Challenge

How to Run Inspiring Youth Groups
on Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur


by Dina Sterman, Young Israel of New Rochelle, NY

At the Young Israel of New Rochelle, we are extremely proud of our High Holiday youth programming. For many years we struggled with providing high quality youth groups on the Yamim Nora’im. We can’t have our regular Shabbat and holiday groups because the teen group leaders daven with their families in the regular minyanim. At the same time, we have hundreds of children in shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For their safety, as well as for decorum, we needed a way to keep them occupied. We tried hiring professional babysitters who weren’t Jewish, but parents were unhappy that on our holiest days of the year, our children were not davening and not having any sort of educational experience.
Our members designed and implemented a new program to provide excellent, meaningful child care and programming which also enabled parents to daven peacefully on these most important days of the year. It’s been three years since we first implemented our program and each year has been a tremendous success.
Here’s what we do:
Groups run from 9:30am through the end of davening on both days of Rosh Hashanah. On Yom Kippur, they run from 10:00am through the end of davening. Nursery age through fourth grade children are divided into groups based on age and gender (pre-k and k are mixed gender). Professional babysitters who aren’t Jewish (who don’t have an obligation to be in services) are hired to be present throughout the program, manning each group, with 2-3 sitters per group (depending on the number of children).
In addition to having the professional sitters present the entire time, there are sessions which are designed by and run by volunteer parents, all age appropriate. The lead sitter meets with the High Holiday Programming Committee prior to the Holidays to discuss the schedule and logistics of the days.
The daily structure is divided into half hour sessions. These include:
1) Davening
2) Outdoor play
3) Holiday (RH or YK) trivia games such as Jeopardy or Taboo
4) Candy/food arts and craft activity
5) Story time
6) Snack
Parents sign up in advance for half hour slots to lead the davening, trivia sessions, and one other session which may be an interactive game or another creative session which the parent has created. We provide healthy snacks and on Yom Kippur we provide lunch.
All children hear shofar blowing, either in their groups rooms or in shul, depending on the childrens’ group age. The older children are ushered into shul prior to shofar blowing and then return after shofar to their groups rooms. The younger children remain in their rooms and a volunteer blows shofar for them there. Alternatively, some parents take their kids out of groups to hear the Shofar and then send them back to groups afterwards.
At the end of shul, prizes are provided to all children who remained in groups. The prizes speak to the interest of the age and gender.
Our members have been thrilled with this program. Not only do we provide a structured program for their children for the duration of davening, but the programming is organized, well-thought out and sensitive to the needs of the children and parents. It is based on tefillah, education and fun. 


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National Council of Young Israel
50 Eisenhower Drive  Paramus, NJ 07652   (212) 929.1525   Fax (212) 727.9526

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National Council of Young Israel
50 Eisenhower Drive
Suite 102
Paramus, New Jersey 07652

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