I spent an amazing weekend with Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend. It’s one of the few times when, as I rabbi, I did something that really made a difference that I can talk about. Most of the time, when I make a difference in my rabbinic work, it involves a person, and is their story to tell. When working with a group, I’m able to talk about it a little more.
The congregation is just starting out, having hosted spectacular high holiday services last month, is beginning to get around to thinking through what they do the rest of the year. They have about 30 families, which is amazing for a congregation that is only 6 months old and doesn’t really have much going on regularly yet. This weekend, I led services for them, taught some adult ed, and also taught a class for the kids. In addition, we talked a lot, and I did some organizational consulting.
The group of people in Bend is great, and are developing a really strong organization. However, this is a group that doesn’t have much experience starting a new congregation. In fact, the group doesn’t have a lot of experience with startups in general. In contrast, I’m immersed in startup-land, and have worked with a number of congregations in the early stages of development. As a result, I was able to give some advice that they were excited to recieve. How weird is that? I gave advice and it was valued!
Some of it came from knowing a thing or two about startups: you need a vision. You can’t build something unless you know what you are building. Some of it was based on congregational experience: get the religious school
online as early as possible, because that’s a big motivator for people to join. Some of it was based on marketing experience: it’s easier to sell a product that exists than vaporware.
The giving advice part of the weekend was fun, but maybe not the most exciting thing I did. This weekend, for my adult education session, I took a risk. I decided to try to teach mysticism.
Mysticism is really difficult to explain, but a fascinating philosophy of life. Mystical texts tend to be very technical, and hard to find a way into without a whole lot of context. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot. I taught Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook on love–and it worked! People understood both the text and mysticism by the end of an hour and a half. And I got to teach a text I really love.
I had a lot of fun this weekend, and sense the congregation did too. I also got to drive into Central Oregon, which is beautiful high desert. I took a few photos on the way back…of the point and shoot variety, since I was driving at the time. But take enough shots, and some will turn out, even if you don’t look at what you’re photographing (and post-production helps a lot, too). So, for those who don’t know the beauty of Central Oregon, there are a few photos accompanying this post.