Hakhel Newsletter September 2021

What’s Inside: Sharing Resources | In the Spotlight



About 4 months ago Israel announced it had “overcame Covid”, opened everything and life returned to normal, to how it used to be before 2020. 

A few other countries were about to initiate similar declarations until reality fought back. With rapidly growing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths worldwide, it seems like we are doomed to relive 2020 again. 

I feel like the optimistic announcement only made it worse. I mean, we sort of learned to live alongside Covid restrictions, and the hope that it’s now over made the backlash even more painful. 

But then I thought about the Hebrew cycle. Every year anew, in the month of Elul, we hope and pray and congratulate each other for Shana Tova, hoping for a better year than this one. Not all years are necessarily better, some are worse. However, the mere idea that life is not an endless cycle that repeats itself, but rather that there is progress towards a better future, is profoundly an original Jewish (or actually Hebrew/Biblical) idea. 

Along the way, there will be backlashes and pitfalls, but looking ahead and remaining hopeful is not good only for our internal well-being. It drives us to make the world a better place in practice.

So may we all have, truly and genuinely, a Shana Tova.

Yours truly,

Aharon Ariel Lavi


Designing the High Holidays events with “Belonging” in mind:

High Holidays are an ideal time for the community to provide opportunities for people to get together, connect, celebrate and share.

In the past (almost) couple of years, we have all faced an unprecedented reality that challenged our ability to design experiences that build a sense of belonging and connection. Unfortunately, some of us are still, or once again, faced with the challenge.   

Creating a sense of belonging takes intention and practice and it is the core of community building and the key for vibrant and sustainable communities. Like so much of Jewish life, it can’t be done alone. 

When planning your upcoming High Holidays experiences, we encourage you to be mindful of the following three key aspects that create unique, personal, community-driven shared experiences, elevating a sense of belonging:

Cultivate ownership  – Inviting participants to play a role at the event

A community-building event is not a “one-person-show”, therefore: 

  • Set a committee or few committees that plan and lead aspects of the event, always inviting more people to take an active part.
  • Aim to design the different roles required for the events’ success so that community members can step up based on their unique skills and passions. 
  • Initiate via your communal communication platform, a wide call to join committees or step up for a role, as well as personal reach-out, emphasizing the unique added value and expertise members can bring to the collective effort. 
  • Prefer internal community talents/ professionals/ joint efforts over service providers from outside. 

Foster more personalized, more intimate encounters and conversations

  • Make sure everybody is being seen and that it matters that they showed up.
  • Provide meaningful opportunities for people to share about themselves (multiple aspects of their lives) and allow deeper connections.
  • Set the space to allow interpersonal interactions.
  • Acknowledge the contribution of individuals to the event and celebrate the joint effort.  

Develop and strengthen a unique communal identity

  • Include features that can become a tradition and can continuously be embedded in community activities. 
  • Give a place and stage to the strengths and uniqueness of the community and its values.
  • Highlight previous successful experiences curating the communal narrative 
  • Create something together (before, during, or after the event) that demonstrates the community’s social fabric, characteristics, symbols, and values (Communal cookbook, Sharing family traditions, photo gallery, Shanna Tova cards, etc.). 
  • Find engaging ways to tell the story of the event to create memories, set the narrative, highlight engagement, and excite members towards future events (Video clip, Blog, Gallery, etc.)

Additional resources for the High Holidays:

If you’re in a mood for a more in-depth Jewish learning with your community, check out these two source sheets and High Holiday reader: 

A study of how intentional communities have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021

The Foundation for Intentional Communities (FIC) partners with hundreds of intentional communities around the world. FIC administered an interesting study in the spring of 2021, of how intentional communities have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The report from this study showcases the wide diversity of responses to Covid amongst intentional communities, offers guidance to other communities during the “opening up” phase of the pandemic, uplifts critical questions, and shares insight into both the opportunities and challenges of living in a community.

Click here for the full report

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has." – Margaret Mead (American cultural anthropologist)

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