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Journey: Building a Vibrant Future Together - The Backstory

This is an important moment in the life of our community. Beth El Synagogue Center is embarking on a collaborative visioning and strategic planning process, Journey: Building a Vibrant Future Together, which will engage all of us in a creative reimagining of what it means to be a vibrant congregation – relevant to the lives of its members, to the Jewish future, and to the wider community.

The entire Beth El family and broader community will be invited into this process. Together, we will discover a vision for Beth El that captures the legacy and values that have provided a strong foundation for our synagogue while exploring ways to co-create a vibrant and sustainable future amidst the instability most American Jewish institutions face. With optimism, open minds and open hearts, we invite you to join us on this journey.    

The “Why?”

We are an outstanding synagogue- a family. And yet, these are times where loyalty to institutions is greatly diminished and the ways Jews self-identify and make meaning of their Judaism are changing rapidly. People worship differently. People marry differently. To ensure our own future, it is vital that we examine the most fundamental questions about how we can adapt and thrive amidst this shifting landscape.

Some of the questions before us are:

  • Judaism. How can we ensure that all that we do will be infused with a love and respect of Torah, Jewish values and connection to Israel?
  • Crossroads. What is the nature of world in which we find ourselves? What is the nature of the crossroads we face as a community?
  • Next Chapter. How can we secure our future for the next generation? What are the implications of growth? Do we aim to grow in numbers (quantity) or attend mainly to sustaining our close community and attending to the “thickness” of our Jewish lives and relationships (quality)? Do we always want to be known as a Conservative synagogue community or some other marker?
  • BESC as Jewish Hub. How can we develop our synagogue community into a vibrant hub of Jewish life for most Jewish families in Westchester?
  • Inclusion (and other Global Trends). What does the trend toward intermarriage mean for Beth El? Is there an opportunity within what may appear to be a crisis? How are we being called to be even more inclusive of multi-faith families, LGBTQ members, people of all abilities, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds?
  • Relevance. How can we ensure that we are relevant for all Jews who want to make their home with us? What success factors/indicators should guide us? If not membership, then what?
  • Role in the Ecosystem. What does it mean to be a Conservative synagogue community in these times? What is Beth El’s place in the larger ecosystem of Westchester County? New York City? US?
  • Business Models. What business models will sustain us?  How do we shift our thinking around membership, fundraising, facilities?

We are proud of and excited about the high-engagement and innovative approach that we are taking into this journey. Thanks to a generous contribution from Hazzan Ellen and Graham Arad in memory of their parents Phyllis & Menachem Arad and Lucille & Reuven Miller, Zichronam Livarcha,  we have the opportunity to engage consultants from Insyte Partners. Insyte specializes in guiding organizations and communities around complex questions when the past is no longer a predictor of the future—but where its important to learn from the future rather than only re-enacting patterns of the past.  You can read more about Insyte at

The “How” and the “Who”

Everyone in our community will have multiple opportunities to participate in the conversations about the future of our synagogue. Every voice counts. To begin the process, we have assembled a strong yet purposely small Planning Team consisting of Beth El professionals and members from diverse fields who will work behind the scenes to keep our work strategically focused and moving forward.

We will invite a broad cross-section of our community and beyond to serve on our Vision Team. This will be a group of roughly 50 people representative of the entire Beth El community who will be key partners in the work of exploring and discovering the future that wants to happen for BESC. They will listen to others’ ideas, hopes and dreams, as well as their own. They will also immerse themselves in places inside and outside the congregational world that to inform and inspire us, and in some cases, provide breakthrough thinking.

The Vision Team will play a key role in articulating the future direction of Beth El, which will get translated into “prototypes”—experiments that move us quickly into action toward our desired future, as well as implementation plans. Everyone will be invited into the prototyping process.  Our Board of Directors and professional staff will be involved at key moments at the beginning, middle, and end of the effort.

The “What’s Next” and the “When”

There will be plenty of opportunities for additional input. All of our constituents will be invited into conversations to help shape our future. Listening forums, to which all will be invited, will be planned soon. Your voices will be heard during every stage of this process. A special email address will be set up for you to share any questions or concerns. We will listen to and answer each one.

Communication is vital to the success of this project. A Journey sub-website will launch in October 2017 and will continually be updated with news relating to our plan. This “site within a site” will include an FAQ section and contact form, and e-blasts will be regularly sent out as well. 

We anticipate launching the Vision Team late in 2017, with Listening Forums and other information-gathering activities taking place in early 2018. The entire project will run through Fall of 2018.

This is an exciting moment for the future of Beth El. The trends and data of the American Jewish community are clear: synagogues must reimagine themselves if they want to thrive.We are committed to proactively meet our challenges head on and transform them into opportunities to reaffirm our values and chart a clear path for our future. These conversations will be both challenging and exhilarating. We are confident that with open-heartedness and generosity, we will navigate this journey together and emerge as a unified community with a clear path toward a vibrant future.


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Sat, June 23 2018 10 Tammuz 5778