Beliefnet
In the epilogue to "Finding a Spiritual Home: How a Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue," Sidney Schwarz offers 10 steps for making synagogue involvement a more spiritually meaningful and rewarding experience. The following are those strategies--read through all of them, or click on an individual heading to read just that one. (Excerpted by permission of the publisher, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley company):

1. Create a Mission Statement
2. Bring Sing-able Music into the Worship Service
3. Create Havurot--Small Prayer Groups
4. Create Systems for Personal Support
5. Create a Social Justice Agenda
6. Experiment with the Prayer Experience
7. Create a Lay-Led Service
8. Get the Actors at Life-Cycle Events to Speak to the Moment
9. Share Personal Stories
10. Reach Out to New Constituencies

1. Create a Mission Statement
See if a group of members would be interested in thinking through theprimary purpose of the synagogue. Remember, a list of programs is not a statement of objectives. First try to articulate the why: Why does our synagogue exist? What are its objectives? What is the purpose of Judaism?

As you try to commit your ideas to writing, circulate it to ever-wider circles of members, and invite their input. See if what begins to takeshape makes you proud. If it does, you are on the right track. Only then begin to examine the program of the synagogue to see if it is successfullyadvancing the objectives set forth in the mission statement.
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2. Bring Sing-able Music into the Worship Service
As you sit in a service, take note of how many people are singing how many songs. If most people are sitting passively, listening to a cantor or a choir, you need some serious music therapy.

Talk to your cantor about whether he or she is willing to introduce newmelodies that lend themselves to congregational singing. Track down tapes of Jewish music to find suitable melodies. The simpler the song, in terms of words and melody, the better. A niggun requires no words at all and is generally repeated often enough so that even the most musically challenged can join in. Even easier is to encourage the cantor to take a few of the peppier melodies and to sing them with "la la la" a couple of times after the words have been sung. Especially if some people find the Hebrew intimidating, this is an excellent way to draw worshipers into some singing.

See if you can identify one or more members who are musically talented, and see if they can introduce a melody on occasion. If the religious standards permit it, introduce instruments or drums. If not, clapping serves a similar purpose.
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3. Create Havurot--Small Prayer Groups
Any way that you can break down the congregation into smaller, more intimate unites will strengthen the bonds of community. The havurot might be organized around study, shabbat, social action, holidays, or any other topic. They may be based on geography (who lives near whom) or life stage (singles, young couples, families with small children, and so on). The more Jewish content the better.

What is most important is that members get into each other's homes and get to know one another. If your objective is to strengthen your synagogue, make sure that the havurah is committed to attendance at synagogue-wide events on a regular basis; otherwise, it will become an impetus for pulling energy out of the congregation instead of putting energy into it. Ideally, the havurah should, on occasion, sponsor a program for the rest of the congregation.
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4. Create Systems for Personal Support
Nothing invalidates the synagogue enterprise more than if a memberexperiences a life trauma and there is no congregational response. This is the Jewish mitzvah of gemilut chasadim, acts of loving-kindness. A visit or call from the rabbi is nice, but it is not enough. Havurot are natural response teams during such times because of the familiarity of the members with one another.

Often the biggest barrier to congregations functioning as support networks for each other is the reticence of members to share their pain, sickness, or personal crisis with a wider group of people. The synagogue-community is challenged to come up with ways to overcome this American predilection for privacy. Healing services are one vehicle that gives sickness or death in the congregation are very important, but the response must go beyond a small group of people.
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