Synagogues in the 21st Century are facing a myriad of issues — from declining engagement and attendance (leading to reduced budgets) through competing with the Jewish nonprofit sector for quality leadership and staff. Many synagogues are complex organizations with several programs operating concurrently while serving diverse populations.


Despite being “traditional” organizations, all synagogues are changing or need to change in order to adapt to a changing reality of Jewish communal life. New staff (professional, or administrative), new board members, or new ideas and strategies, all require careful and intentional attention. Often, there is resistance to doing things differently, effectively thwarting attempts to revitalize a congregation. Even if the resistance is not deliberate, accomplishing change in a synagogue is a complex process. Coordinating between the various community stakeholders (who might have different approaches and priorities) typically requires a third party to facilitate the process.


Synagogues are revisiting their engagement strategies for all demographics: children, teens, young adults, adults, and empty-nesters. Changing demographics, technology, and other complex community related factors are necessitating more innovative approaches. The 2014 Gaza war (“Protective Edge”) highlighted the difficulty that synagogues were having with engaging members around Israel. The article Synagogue Engagement Strategies: Lessons Learned from "Protective Edge” outlines a model for engagement that can be applied to Israel or other content areas.


Security and emergency preparedness planning is the “albatross” of many synagogues and communities. This nagging burden is frequently pushed aside due to its perceived complexity and emotional overtones. Often forgotten is the reality that emergency planning is not just about “bad guys with guns”, but also affects situations such as responding to medical emergencies, issues around child custody disputes, domestic and/or workplace violence, and weather or environmental disasters.

Part of the complexity of crisis planning in synagogues is due to the different groups people who are involved, whose input is important. The planning process involves both the professional staff and the lay leadership: The executive director (or administrator), clergy, education director, and facilities / maintenance all have important contributions and roles in the planning and the crisis management.  The lay leadership – President, building committee, education committee, and others – have an important role through providing input on community culture and expectations, as well as the process of rolling out the plans and encouraging “buy-in” by the community.

Crisis situations (regardless of the cause) amplify the intensity of any flaw or weakness in an organization: if there is a problem, it will become apparent in the assessment, planning, or execution of the crisis response. The reason for this is that crisis affects us internally and also in the way we interact and communicate with others. Additionally, it tends to expose the limitations of the infrastructure (facilities and technology) that we are using.

Ultimately, the fiduciary responsibility of the board of directors of the synagogue includes making sure that there are adequate and effective policies and procedures in place to protect the facility, staff, and community.  Read more….

Security and Preparedness Resources for Synagogues

Engaging Stakeholders in Security Planning: Common Hurdles Part I

Is your synagogue safe? Being prepared is more than just security

Securing your synagogue: Beyond guards, gates, and gadgets

Security Self Assessment

Managing Suspicious Persons

Contagious illness

Telephone Bomb Threat

Handling of Suspicious Mail or Package


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