CJP’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) is a communal resources committed to supporting and strengthening synagogues and Jewish agencies in support of our shared vision of a vibrant and inclusive Jewish life. The LDI is part of CJP’s Jewish Learning and Engagement Commission (JLE).


The call came first thing Monday morning. “This is Rabbi Kline (not his real name). I heard that you might be able to help us.”

“Rabbi, what is the problem?”

“Members aren’t coming to services, each year we get fewer and fewer.”

“I’m sorry to hear it, what are you doing about it?”

“I call them and tell them COME TO SERVICES!”

If only this was a made up story, it’s not. Luckily while the challenge is not unusual, our clergy and lay leaders are using much more nuanced approaches to increase participation and engagement in all aspects of temple life.

The phrase “value proposition” (why people should engage with you, your competitive edge) may sound like a business term but for CJP’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI), “what is your value proposition?” is how we begin many of our conversations with synagogue leaders asking for assistance when membership is down and finances are in the red.

And whatever the answer, how do they know it? Are they speaking from their own experience, for those who have been members for many years OR have they asked the newbies, those who recently joined or better yet, those who visited the “open house” and wound up elsewhere?

Successful leaders first name and then test their assumptions.

Successful synagogues have compelling value propositions. Successful leadership teams take the time to self-reflect, to re-establish their collective vision and to make decisions that align vision and action.


Last night I was making a quick milk run to our local Whole Foods and I bumped into Jake, a friend from temple. He looked a bit ragged around the edges and so I asked how he was doing.

“I’m fine,” he says, “but we had a board meeting last night and they really take it out of me. They seem to go on forever with an agenda that’s way too long, progress reports read out loud and the truly important stuff squeezed in at the end when everyone is too exhausted to think straight”.

“Good news,” Jake says, “I’m in my last year and the nominating committee has already identified replacements.”

We part ways and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a phone message waiting for me at home, congratulations you’ve been nominated to our temple board.

The message continues, “We’re so honored to have you join us.”

Meetings are a “quality of life” issue for congregations. It’s where we “do the work” of congregational life. Good meetings begin and end on time, agendas reflect both the relational and operational values of the congregation and discussions lead to deeper understanding and where needed, action.


PART 1 – “I was psyched to go to the open house of the congregation literally down the block from our new home. From the little I knew it had a good reputation and a fine religious school for my kids. I just needed to check it out for myself.

I pulled into the parking lot, filled out my name tag and proceeded to the social hall where the greeter welcomed me with ‘Reynolds, what kind of a Jewish name is that?’

I made a quick about face and continued my search. We’re so happy with our new congregation across town.”

PART 2 – “We were new in town and decided to check out the congregation that we had heard good things about even though we drove by two congregations along the way.

We walked into the lobby and looked in vain for signs to the office or receptionist.

We realized that it was lunchtime and so no one was there to greet us and so we just stood around for a while and then left.”

First impressions count. Many of us have trepidation with new situations. One false step is enough to turn us around.

Successful congregations look at themselves through the eyes of new visitors when designing their welcoming efforts. Some even go as far as practicing welcoming with role play and feedback sessions. Successful congregations understand that you only get to make a first impression once.


OUR Mission (Our purpose) – CJP’s LDI empowers Jewish leaders to learn together, to hone the needed skills to assess and recommit to their vision and values, and to create and implement action steps to move their organizations forward. We accomplish this mission by:

  • Supporting organizations and their leaders through intensive seminars, workshops, consultations and executive coaching
  • Working with executives, clergy, boards, professionals and “emerging leaders” to deepen their knowledge and effectiveness as leaders as they shape institutional change
  • Drawing on classic and modern models of leadership and management, business school and synagogue case studies, and Jewish texts and traditions

For more information about CJP’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) go to www.cjp.org/ldi.

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