The Board of Directors has frequently discussed how to ensure the DJC is a warm and welcoming community, especially for new members. How do we help make deeper connections between people who may be singing harmony together during services, ripping challah while making kiddush, or dancing the hora holding hands, but don’t know each others names or anything about what’s going on in their lives?
For the High Holy Days this year, we set up a system to help integrate new members into the community by pairing them with seasoned members. The idea was for a long time member to become a point person for a new member – not only as a way to provide information about the DJC, but also as a touchstone so those new to the community wouldn’t feel so isolated or uncomfortable walking into services for the first time, especially during the High Holy Days when the sanctuary is packed.
Our Member Engagement Committee also organizes their much loved Fireside Chats, which bring new and old members together. In a small, intimate setting they get to meet each other, ask questions about the DJC, and discuss how they would like to engage with the community.
These two great initiatives are ones we hope will facilitate making connections between members easier, help them feel comfortable in their new community, and provide a good sense of how they can start getting involved, or become more involved. But I think we can do more to make the DJC a place where members feel truly connected and supported.
In the last newsletter, Josh Greenhut wrote about his family’s experience of opening their home for DJC Sukkot celebrations and the warmth that filled those services amidst the mid-October cold-spell. Recently, I have basked in the kindness of DJC families who invited me to their Shabbat and holiday dinners. The intimacy of sharing a family meal, the unfolding of dinnertime conversation about events and personal experiences, learning about the origin of art hanging in a home, or cheering on the kids’ spontaneous dance performance – these are all essential parts of community building. I also think about the shiva minyans I have gone to and the honour it is to join with other DJC members to support a mourner in his or her difficult journey. I think these connections and experiences we share when celebrating, praying, and eating together outside Eastminster are directly connected to how haimishe (homey/inviting) our services and programs feel inside Eastminster.
How can we inspire and support more of these connections amongst DJC members? How can we help to translate those experiences into a more warm, welcoming, and supportive DJC community?
We’d love to hear your ideas. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elisabeth Marks, Chair, DJC Board of Directors