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Masorti is Listening

By Adrienne Bernstein

Imagine: you are having a conversation with a person from your Masorti community. You’ve never met this person, or perhaps only know them from afar. It’s just you and them, getting to know each other. But what if this conversation was just one of many taking place within your community? And what if this conversation opened you to a network of people? And what if all these conversations resulted in new initiatives? Well, then you’d have a Listening Campaign.

A Listening Campaign is a project designed to help build stronger and better relationships. Several communities across the Masorti movement are taking part in our Listening Campaigns. Some have been taking place for over a year while others have only just begun, but all are aimed at bringing members together to understand each other better and build connections.

People and relationships are at the heart of every Listening Campaign. The structure is based on 1-2-1 conversations between trained facilitators (called connectors) and members of the community.

Below are just a handful of stories from people involved in Listening Campaigns.

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Liz Preter is a members of Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue and Liz Oppedijk is a member of St Albans Masorti Synagogue. They are spearheading a Listening Campaign programme happening across several smaller Masorti communities.

What is the objective of the Listening Campaign?  

Liz Preter: “The idea is to focus on the person, not the task. If you find out what’s important to people, then you can figure out afterwards what solutions may solve which problems. A key point is that 121s are conversations, where both people share: they are not an interview or a therapy session.”

What can members expect to see in their communities as a result of the campaign?

Liz Oppedijk: “Hopefully friendlier communities as people connect with those they might not normally speak to. Ideally members will be engaged in different aspects of communities be that religious, social, fundraising or organisational.”

What does the Campaign look like?

Liz Preter: “Each campaign will be different, but the idea is to bring people together through 1-2-1 conversations, find out what things they have in common and create an action plan based around the themes discovered.”

Liz Oppedijk: “I think the campaigns will help to engage and involve members at the peripheries of communities or those who feel they would like to be more involved but are unsure how.  The hope is that by getting to know members, the communities will be more self-sustaining as people feel empowered to become involved and develop their roles.”

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Louise Froggett is the Community Development Director at New North London Synagogue, where there has been a Listening Campaign running since July 2016.

Why did you get involved with the Listening Campaign? We felt that running a 1-2-1 Connections Campaign (our name for our Listening Campaign) it would enable us to reach out to members, show that we care and are interested in hearing what they have to say.

What have some of the outcomes been? An overarching theme to emerge is that Kiddush can feel overwhelming and excluding. As a result we have planned two community Kiddushim on simchah-free shabbatot where connectors/facilitators carry around plates of food, chatting with people and making introductions and connections.

What does it mean to you to be a connector? I love chatting with people and finding out about their membership journey at NNLS. Each person’s story is unique and it’s fascinating to hear different perspectives on how this shul has played a role in people’s lives.

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Ruth Freedman has been a connector in the New North London Synagogue 1-2-1 Connections Campaign since last summer.

How did you find the conversations with members?

All the meetings I’ve had have been very fulfilling. It’s so nice to engage with other people and have protected time just to listen to them.

What is it like to be a connector?

I’m very privileged to have this relationship with the community. But it’s difficult – I’ve been a connector with three members or couples so it’s just the tip of iceberg. However, it’s quality not quantity. The meetings I’ve had have been so rich that they make up for the fact that I haven’t spoken with so many people.

How has being a part of this campaign changed your perspective on your community?

It’s given me an opportunity to talk to younger people and it has reminded me how hard it is to be a young family and be involved in a shul. I’ve developed a huge respect for the variety of people we have and the efforts they are all making. It’s been an enriching experience to meet so many different people.

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Hayley Posener is a member of St Albans Masorti Synagogue (SAMS) which has been involved in the Masorti-wide Listening Campaign programme.

Why did you get involved with the Listening Campaign? I enjoy meeting people and developing a deeper understanding of them. I am a recent member of SAMS, officially joining in September 2015, and want to connect with members of the shul and also engage with families with young children.

What was it like to train to be a connector? The training was really refreshing and interactive. I liked that there were small numbers – about seven of us. It gave us an opportunity to do our own role plays and actually learn more about members I see on a weekly basis but didn’t really know. I got to learn interesting insights about each of them that I wouldn’t normally find out during a brief conversation at Kiddush.

What would you tell a fellow member about the Campaign? The thing I would tell a fellow Masorti member is that it shows how much our community cares about each and every member. It is our personal touch that makes our community a place that welcomes and includes all. It is important as it demonstrates that our movement is evolving and we really do listen, share and take on board suggestions.

There is still time to get involved in a Listening Campaign in your community. Email Michelle Janes at michelle@masorti.org.uk for more information.

Adrienne Bernstein is a Communications and Marketing officer at Masorti Judaism.

Posted on 24 May 2017

This blog aims to provide articles of interest on the weekly parashah and issues in Masorti Judaism, representing the full range of diverse views that exist among Masorti members. For guidance on any of the issues raised, please consult your rabbi.

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