Doing for Ourselves
Jan 17th 2016

“Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves”—this is the iron rule of community organizing. 

What do you think about this statement? 

Some believe that embracing this statement is at the core of a successful engagement strategy that is focused on empowering active participants. 

What does a thriving Beth Tzedec look like to you? 

Most of us would likely answer that a successful Beth Tzedec is one in which hundreds of people actively participate on a regular basis. 

I agree that seeing lots of people walk through the halls of Beth Tzedec every week (which does currently happen) is a sign of success, and I believe that in order to inspire and energize younger members, we need to expect more from them than membership. We need to help them understand that their active participation will be seen as valuable to us and life-enriching for them. 

Currently, many of the younger members and potential members focus on the question “what do I get?” They want to be part of the Beth Tzedec community, but the language around belonging has shifted from a model of ownership and relationship, to a model based on transactions and consumerism. 

When I meet new people, which happens daily at this point, I try to learn three things from them: 

  1. What are their self-interests? We shouldn’t mistake this for selfishness. Everyone has their own needs that require fulfilment and we all need to be able to articulate these. 
  2. What are they passionate about? I want to know what keeps them up at night and what motivates them to get up in the morning. 
  3. What is their appetite for leadership? What are they capable of and willing to do to make an impact in the realm in which they are passionate about? 

My job is to listen and to understand why, so that we can help them find or create together the experiences and opportunities within the Beth Tzedec community that match their dreams and needs. 

I believe that a thriving Beth Tzedec is one in which all involved have a clear understanding of what their needs are and how they can use their passions and skills to help the collective. It is our job as the staff and lay leadership of a kehillah kedoshah, holy community, like Beth Tzedec to ensure that the appetite of each member for involvement and ownership is both nurtured and cherished. 

So with that in mind, I would tweak the original statement to: “Don’t do for others what we can accomplish together.” 

My “100 Cups of Coffee” Challenge 

From January 17 through April 25, I have set a personal goal to go out for coffee with 100 unique Beth Tzedec people, couples or families so that I can get to know them. Help me meet this goal. Call me at 647-267-8752 or email me to book your coffee date today. 

Yacov actually drinks tea, not coffee, but appreciates a good alliteration.