Recovering from a communal scandal, engaging millennials, managing a crisis during a natural disaster and applying for-profit business principles to your shul are just a few of the relevant and timely topics addressed at the OU’s Eighth Annual National Synagogue Executive Directors Conference held this past fall.
Sponsored by the OU’s Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, the three-day seminar in Atlanta, Georgia, drew representatives from thirty-two shuls in thirteen states and two Canadian provinces. The conference, with the theme of “Growing a Mikdash Me’at,” focused on how lay and professional leaders play an instrumental role in running a synagogue and strengthening a community. Two Atlanta-based shuls, Congregation Beth Jacob and the Young Israel of Toco Hills, co-hosted the conference. “The support and professional development I receive from the conference and network has been invaluable to the work that I do,” says Eliana Leader, Executive Director of the Young Israel of Toco Hills, “and my shul has benefited from the great ideas and successful programs shared by other shuls.”
“The strength of this event is how it utilizes the network of OU member shuls that our department has created,” says Associate Director of Synagogue Services and Regional Director for Long Island Rabbi Yehuda Friedman, who coordinated the conference. “An executive director from a shul in Omaha and another from Beverly Hills can sit together and share ideas and practices, enabling communities of all sizes to build each other.”
The annual conference is part of the Department of Synagogue Services’ larger initiative to provide consultation to synagogue and communal leaders, with over 200 synagogues reached in the last year.