On Rosh Hashanah in 2010, Rabbi Esther Lederman gave a sermon about “listening projects” that congregations around the country were undertaking to, among other things, discover congregational needs that were going unmet. She initiated a series of community conversations to discover issues that members felt strongly about and identify broadly held concerns, then to form action teams to do something about them and thus build a stronger Micah community. About a dozen volunteers talked one-on-one with more than 120 members of the congregation to gather members’ personal stories about their lives, their yearnings and the changes they hoped to see at Micah. Four themes emerged from the conversations, which the volunteers identified as:
- Aging Together, the need to build a formal structure within the Micah community to support and comfort members as they grow old together;
- Forging Micah Connections, the desire of members to develop stronger personal relationships with each other;
- Beyond the Walls of Micah, the wish to deepen Micah’s commitment to the needs of the greater Washington DC community; and
- Beyond the High Holiday Blessing, the request that the temple expand its day to day services to interfaith families beyond the greatly appreciated welcome these families receive and the unprecedented blessing from the pulpit on the High Holy Days.
The Aging Together team, led by Barbara Diskin, really took off, spawning the widely popular Lunch & Learn (not limited to the aging) and the Wise Aging seminars. Forging Micah Connections made an effort to welcome newcomers to Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday evenings and set up a chaver program to match up newcomers with veteran members.
Rabbi Esther Lederman on the Wise Aging program
The Wise Aging program’s curriculum, created by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, brings people in the third act of their lives into small intimate communities facilitated by their peers. It asks what does it mean to age wisely and look with intention at this part of your life.