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Congregation Beth Shalom

Jewish Community in Bozeman, Montana

Congregation Beth Shalom Three-Year Plan July 1 2014 – June 30 2017

The Board has developed a three-year plan providing for the growth our community during the period July 2014 to June 2017. The plan is intended to be a living and breathing document that will change as we learn more and receive community input. Please provide us with your comments so that we have the benefit of everyone’s input.


JULY 2014-JUNE 2017

  1. Background. Congregation Beth Shalom has been in transition. For many years, the community worshipped in the annex to St James Church. We acquired our current premises in 2001. Student rabbis, who would fly in, led services usually on a monthly basis. Subsequently, Rabbi Allen Secher served as part time rabbi for several years, commuting from Whitefish MT. In July 2009, Rabbi Ed Stafman became our first resident rabbi on a half-time basis. During Rabbi Stafman’s tenure, membership has grown to its current level of approximately 105 family units. In July 2011, Rabbi Stafman began a five-year contract as a three-quarter time rabbi. This commitment involved financial risk and recognized the need for revenue growth to enable the congregation to remain solvent. If revenue and expenditures were to remain flat during the term of the Rabbi’s new five-year contract, the Temple would be risking insolvency at the end of his term (June 30, 2016). Beth Shalom’s financial performance since July 2011 has been challenging but generally profitable, with small deficits in several years eliminated by special donations. During this same timeframe, religious, educational, social and outreach activities have grown substantially, resulting in a viable and visible Jewish presence serving Bozeman and surrounding communities in southwestern Montana.

This plan addresses the actions that the Congregation proposes to take over the period July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017 to ensure the future of a viable and robust Jewish community in Bozeman, Montana and beyond.

  1. Our Vision. In 2010, we adopted the following vision statement: “Congregation Beth Shalom is a place where members — adults and children alike — come together to learn about the spiritual offerings of our Jewish tradition in order to enhance their own spiritual experience in a Jewish community. We come together to pray in a meaningful and joyous way and to celebrate the history and traditions of Judaism. Ours is a kind and nurturing community where members genuinely care about one another, which is reflected at multiple levels, especially around simchas and tragedies. We promote and cultivate a lifelong connection to Judaism through our congregational programs, and those available through the Reform and Renewal movements, including camps and Israel experiences”. The three pillars to our vision statement are:
  1. Engagement. The Temple has identified four top level goals for the next three years (see Section 4). Success in all of these goals depends on member engagement. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Assembled in the synagogue everything is there-the body, the benches, the books. But one thing is absent: soul. It is as if we all suffer from spiritual absenteeism. The problem is not how to fill the buildings but how to inspire the hearts. . . .The problem is not of the synagogue attendance but one of spiritual attendance. The problem is not how to attract bodies to enter the space of a temple but how to inspire souls . . .” Engagement, in turn, depends on developing a sense of

sacred community. For this, we need more personal contact between congregants, the development of chaverot, and times when the entire community attempts to gather, especially on Shabbat. In furtherance of this goal, the membership and social committees will develop and implement strategies for member integration, and the ritual committee will develop strategies to increase attendance at services.

  1. Top Level Goals. Our top level goals for the next three years:

4.1. Establish and nourish a Jewish spiritual community


4.2. Retain existing members and recruit new members

4.3. Provide meaningful Jewish education for children and adults

  1. Retention and growth. Our membership grows every year and retaining existing members is a paramount goal. While some attrition is normal, a number of members leave because the synagogue fails to meet their needs. Newly joined members are at particular risk. In a small community, we inevitably have to cater for widely divergent interests. Some are spiritual seekers, some prefer worshiping practices of the denominations in which they were raised, some look for an opportunity to participate in social action, while look for opportunities to socialize with other Jews. We are committed to the following strategies to promote retention:

5.1. Education. Education is one of our primary opportunities to retain existing members: Over the next three years, we will:

5.1.1. continue to provide high quality adult education programs that cater to members’ interests, such as introductions to Judaism, Torah study, and studies of the Kabalah. We will make more extensive use of high-quality video teleconferencing to reach and include members at remote locations.

measurements: Consistent attendance of at least 6 people in each class.

5.1.2. improve the quality of our children’s programs, using teachers who are knowledgeable in Hebrew and Judaics, and with the Rabbi teaching at least once per month, visiting the Tots regularly, and teaching b’nai mitzvah students. The congregation will seek a professional administrator to serve as principal for the religious school, coordinating activates and supporting the volunteer teachers with curriculum materials.

measurements: Consistent attendance of at least fifteen children per week with positive feedback from parents.

5.2. Worship. The content and length of services consider and accommodate the diverse backgrounds, needs, styles and preferences of as many members as possible, within a framework that recognizes the Rabbi’s ultimate control over the bimah. Over the next three years, we will:

5.2.1. through the Ritual Committee, provide an active conduit for feedback from the Congregation to the Rabbi, and develop strategies for creating a sense of sacred community, increased attendance and an increased sense of spirituality at services

5.2.2. organize successful and creative events to celebrate Festivals, with a special focus on High Holidays, Passover, Purim and Chanukah

5.2.3. encourage and support families to participate in life cycle events through the Temple

5.2.4. focus at all times on making the events that we organize successful using the maxim: Quality is better than quantity

5.2.5. observe all major holidays and as many Shabbatot as is feasible, with a mix of both traditional and non-traditional formats.

5.2.6. provide opportunities for Jewish students at MSU to worship with us

5.2.7. hold services at our satellite communities in Big Sky, Helena and elsewhere in southwestern Montana

5.2.8. Include music in services using lay and professional musicians 5.2.9. provide a functioning chevra kaddisha.

measurements: Consistent attendance at every service and at life cycle events, growth of attendance on holidays.

5.3. Social Activities. For some members, vibrant social activities are their main form of connection to the Congregation. Over the next three years, we will:

5.3.1. hold at least four major social events each year, with attendance at each event of at least 40 members/participants, emphasizing the inclusion of new members to the community.

5.3.2. hold at least one event each year for new members.

5.3.3. reach out to new members and create opportunities for all of them to interact with existing members.

measurements: Attendance by members who would not otherwise attend services or adult education. Well attended interfaith events. Positive feedback from new members and no/minimal new member churn at renewal.

5.4. Tikun Olam. For some members, our tikun olam activities are the driving force behind their connection to the Congregation. Over the next three years, we will:

5.4.1. maintain a high profile on social justice in our community, speaking out against injustice and actively participating in the interfaith community.

5.4.2. provide care and support to Jews in need in our community

measurements: Continue engagement in local social justice programs and provide support to members in need.

  1. Recruitment. New members are the lifeblood of our community. Over the next three years, we will:

6.1. identify and meet with potential members

6.2. foster satellite communities in Big Sky, Helena and elsewhere in southwestern Montana

6.3. use adult and children’s education, as well as personal meeting with the Rabbi and board members as vehicles for attracting new members

6.4. organize a social event each year to welcome new members

6.5. provide a welcoming environment for Jewish students at MSU

6.6. link new members to others in the community with similar interests

6.7. create a stronger sense of community and spirituality at services by increasing attendance so that potential members who visit are more inclined to feel welcome and to wish to return.

measurements: Ten new members per year, 90% retention of new members after one year, increased outreach to remote communities by video teleconferencing and through local events in remote locations.

  1. Revenue. The Congregation must increase its top line in order to survive. Over the next three years, we will:

7.1 maintain our current dues structure, but encourage members to contribute above the minimum, consistent with their financial means

7.2. raise revenue through the addition of new members

7.3. organize at least one fundraiser in addition to the Sweet Pea fundraiser.

Suggested measurements: Eliminate the operating deficit and establish a contingency fund.

  1. Leadership. None of the above can happen without good leadership, good management and increased volunteerism. In the next three years, we will:

8.1. ensure an effective committee structure that includes a Ritual, Social, Family and Children, Tikun Olam (Social Justice and caring), Publicity, Membership, Buildings and Grounds, Personnel, and Finance Committee.

8.2. create a succession plan to provide visibility into future leadership by identifying within the next four months the people to fill key positions for the next three years

8.3. encourage and create opportunities for future leaders to attend leadership training programs

8.4. promote volunteerism in our community by volunteering, soliciting and supervising volunteers, and by acknowledging and thanking them for their contribution

8.5. as Board members, lead by example. We cannot expect better attendance if leaders do not attend.

8.6. develop a building plan, consistent with the limitations of the building and the financial constraints of the community.

8.7 conduct periodic evaluations of leadership and staff, provide useful feedback, encouraging team work and professional development.

measurements: Establish a board succession plan, develop a building plan and continue with a resident rabbi.