March 2020 -- Adar-Nisan 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 3

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Westchester 2040: Rabbis Shaping the Jewish Future

A group of rabbis from the Westchester Board of Rabbis has embarked on Westchester 2040, a process to envision the Westchester County Jewish community in 2040. And, the results could very well help shape the future.

 

“Instead of being led by demographics,” says Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, leader of the initiative and Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester in Rye, “we want to lead with vision and purpose towards a bright future for this community.” Struck by congregants bringing him doomsday articles about the demography of the Jewish future, Rabbi Goldsmith began to think about ways that rabbis in the community could move from reacting to leading into the future. “I’ve always been inspired by the pluralistic, energetic cooperation and spirit of this community of rabbis. I believe that by harnessing that spirit, we can come to a vision that will help shape the future together with the demographers, sociologists, communal professionals and planners that allocate resources and shape the narrative about the Jewish Community.”

 

The Westchester Board of Rabbis quickly got on board and, with a grant from UJA-Federation of New York and the help of the Westchester Jewish Council, they hired long-time consultant and coach to the Jewish community, Debra Brosan of gestaltworks, LLC., to lead a day of thinking and dreaming this past spring. With rabbis from all over the county, all of the movements, every gender, sexual orientation, and age, this first meeting yielded some good results and great energy. This past fall, UJA-Federation’s Westchester Advisory Committee funded Westchester 2040 as a year-long initiative to facilitate the rabbis’ development of a joint rabbinic vision for the future.

 

“With some of the best rabbinic thinkers, real diversity, and great energy,” said Debra Brosan of gestaltworks, “we’ve assembled a design team who are unafraid to dream of a dynamic, meaningful, sustainable, and inspiring Jewish community.” She continued, “This kind of Futuring is a groundbreaking methodology used by industry and has not been applied to any other Jewish community that we know of. The potential is limitless.”

 

The process being facilitated by Brosan, and her associate Adam Magerman, will involve intensive Futuring sessions with members of the design team, one-on-one interviews with rabbinic leaders in the community, conversations with non-rabbbinic stakeholders, a survey of the county’s more than 150 rabbis, and comprehensive analysis of these data. The process will yield not only a vision statement, but strategic opportunity maps that will help the Westchester Board of Rabbis and other community stakeholders as they plan for the future.

 

Elliot Fochheimer, Executive Director of the Westchester Jewish Council, added his optimism about the effort, “As we learn from the Book of Proverbs, ‘Without vision, the people perish.’ We applaud the dedication of our Westchester rabbis who are taking their expertise and time to work together to help craft our Jewish future. We look forward to learning of the vision and having it woven into the tapestry of Jewish Westchester.”

 

As with any visionary leadership the exact outcome of the process is unclear. But, as Rabbi Daniel Gropper, President of the Westchester Board of Rabbis and Senior Rabbi of Community Synagogue of Rye says, “Since Abraham and Sarah heeded G-d’s call to be a blessing, our people have envisioned a brighter tomorrow, even when we didn’t know exactly what that future looked like. This is an awesome opportunity to carry on this legacy. If there is one community that is poised for such a process, it is the Westchester Jewish Community.”

 

The Westchester Board of Rabbis joins rabbis from our diverse county in a pluralistic spirit of cooperation for the betterment of the Westchester Jewish community.