New questions have to be answered at every stage of the innovation cycle. Nine years ago, when we set out to transform the synagogue school from a place that teaches “about Judaism” to the headwaters for lived Judaism, we asked: “What capacities does a synagogue need to make change?” Since then The Jewish Education Project in partnership with The Experiment In Congregational Education has been uncovering answers to questions like “How do you break the mold? What’s it take for innovation to spread? How do you assess success?” Now that congregations have actually created innovative models of learning and assessment we have a new question. Over fifty synagogues in NY, known as the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, are asking: “How do we sustain innovation?”
The literature on sustaining innovation is depressing. According to business and educational studies, the majority of innovations sprout long enough to be seen as the next good thing only to be devoured by organizational stasis. To stave off the mighty lion, the status quo, we are learning to use a worthy weapon: Results. Have them. Share them. Hit the head and the heart
To master the art of reaching the head and heart of stakeholders you have to work at the nexus of evaluation and marketing, a zone where most congregational leadership teams don’t dwell. I confess, neither do I; but we’re learning.Stories to the Heart
This past week close to 150 clergy, educators, teachers and lay leaders from The Coalition of Innovating Congregations gathered at City Winery in New York City to sharpen their skills in communicating the results of educational innovations (e.g. models that are more camp than school, learning in the city and home instead of the classroom, Shabbat family celebration in real time).
Deborah Grayson Riegel, an international communications expert, helped us speak to the heart. “Know your audience,” she instructed, “think through what you want your stakeholders to do, to know, to value and connect with.” So, team members from Community Synagogue of Rye, for example, spoke about wanting financial support from their Board for their model of small group home learning, family holiday gatherings and Skype Hebrew. Temple Beth Sholom of Roslyn – who have an “everyone is a mentor and everyone is a mentee” model that includes regular family Shabbat celebration – talked about needing to impact prospective parents. “We ask a lot of families [to participate]. And for them to say they want to participate, they need to see what can result.”
To move Board members and prospective members to action, Grayson Riegel said stories told from the heart would go to the heart. Getting the punch in the punch line requires a certain kind of story telling. So each congregation used a template for storytelling highlighted in Jonah Sack’s book, Wining the Story Wars
, called the Hero’s Journey.
helps the listener follow the learner through struggle and eventual triumph in a way that is memorable and deeply moving. The congregations also watched a three-minute video that illustrated the Hero’s Journey at one of our congregations, made using the template:
The video capture’s Zoe’s remarkable story, and showed how this young teen was able to overcome an immense challenge with the help of Kane Street Synagogue’s L’tzedek
Model, where children turn learning into social action as a compass for their daily lives. Zoe’s story, one of many, goes right to the heart.Headlines from The Coalition of Innovating Congregation’s Stories:
- security and relationships with a caring mentor
- helping others through social justice
- found a place to belong
- Noah blossomed into his own person
- Became a mentor to other youth
- Gained self confidence and a sense of responsibility
- They are always asking: what more can we do?
- He found a community
- He performs mitzvoth that speak to him and are relevant to his life
- Emily said she felt more like herself here
Data to the Head
When battling the status quo, stakeholders also want to see the cold hard facts. Congregations have needed to develop their ability to collect the facts and then beautifully and thoughtfully present them.
When congregations are putting energy into creating new models and using new methods of education design and assessment, it is easily understood why they wouldn’t have the energy for collecting data. And yet, we know it is essential. So we created tracking tools that congregations use to collect data over time. These tools then equip the congregations to mark over time things like how many children/families participate in an innovative model; how many hours of professional development educators participate in, and what percentage of children continue post b’nei mitzvah
from an innovative model vs. the traditional Hebrew school model.
Our experience shows that it is very hard to get agreement on what data will satisfy stakeholders. However, maybe not surprisingly, one result that is shared by many congregations is how well a child and family will be connected to one another and to the congregation. To this end, we created a survey that measures this outcome. Over a dozen congregations, across movements, have administered a “connectedness survey” three times during the last two years. This survey measures the growth and change in families’ connections to one another, and to the congregation. Congregational teams analyze the results, with support from our staff, and are able to show stakeholders the difference between connections expressed by families in their new model vs. the traditional Hebrew school model.What’s next?
Once you collect the data you need to present it powerfully. As of June 1, we are posting tools that enable congregations to use their stories and their numbers effectively. We are posting on innovatingcongregations.org
a tool kit that includes ready made “press releases” and “presentations” that wrap around their hero’s journey stories and collected data. This tool kit includes a two-minute movie, ready for viewing now, used by Coalition Congregations to communicate the unique value of their innovations.
The work we face now is to sustain the innovations. Boards and lay leaders need to say yes to resources. Families and learners need to say yes to engagement. To do this Coalition congregations are innovating in one more area: Communicating Results to the Head and the Heart.Cyd B. Weissman, Director of Innovation in Congregational Learning, The Jewish Education Project works to reshape the landscape of Jewish Education in New York. Generous funding by UJA Federation of New York enables the groundbreaking work of The Coalition of Innovating Congregations. Cyd teaches Curriculum and Assessment and Organizational Change at Hebrew Union College’s School of Education in New York. Follow her blog at livinglomed.blogspot.com.
"I was like Esther when I had courage to stand up for others. One time a kid was being bullied and I said something."
These are the words of one student at Congregation Emanu-El (NYC) who has completed the values-based curriculum that was implemented in the third and fourth grades. Nina Loftspring, HUC Education Intern, recorded every 3rd and 4th grader responding to the following prompt: "I was like (character from Tanach) when I (character trait). One time (story about embodying that value)."
Now, Nina has data that provides insights into this year's learning, and which can help shape learning in years to come."By reviewing this footage, I'm able to see the scope of the year and can get a sense of what worked and what didn't," says Nina. For example, Nina noted that of the students in one fourth grade class, none mentioned women. "What does that tell us about the lessons? What needs to be changed so that the kids are seeing all of these characters as worthy of emulating?"
By doing noticing in this way, Nina is also taking a learner-centered approach. "In watching these videos and seeing how the kids respond to the prompt, I'm able to see what's important to them. If they all mention courage, for example, maybe this is a topic that's coming up for them right now, and the curriculum needs to be responsive."
Yasher koach to Nina on bringing noticing to life!
Shana Zionts is a Coalition Educator working with Temple Israel Center, Ansche Chesed, and Congregation Emanu-El (NYC).
is the Associate Director of the Department of Congregational Learning at The Jewish Education Project where she works to spark, support and spread innovation in congregational education. Her work includes consulting to innovating congregations, building and supporting networks that connect participants to learn from and with one another and serves as a mentor to educators working in 21st century models.
Her dedication to a career in Jewish education began as a teenager and includes serving as Director of Professional Learning and Director of the Jewish Education Resource Center for SAJES, central agency for Jewish Education on Long Island where she directed the Morasha Teacher Preparation Program.
I love being a cheerleader for innovation! I love being in relationships and conversations with people who are really striving to make a difference in people's lives. I love that I get to challenge myself and learn new things every day. I love that I have the privilege of being a part of a rich Jewish tradition of spirituality, texts and learning AND also to plan for and work toward the Jewish Future! All in the company of amazing colleagues!
Suri is based out of Long Island and is a proud mother of three adult children and an avid Torah reader. She gardens, enjoys a good detective novel and enthusiastically cheers for the New York Yankees. You can contact Suri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always striving to create purposeful, useful communication with our congregants. When we know that their email in boxes are always full, how do we get our email subject line to stand out?
Take out your smartphone and choose one subject line that grabs your attention. Why did it work? Was it about something you love, from a family member or friend, did it ask for an immediate response? Maximize the number of people who open your emails by following these simple steps taken from About.com:
| |In your email subject, do not:
- Arouse interest or curiosity
- Say "hi"
- Be wordy
- Respond without giving context
- Be vague or general
| |In your email subject, do:
- Give the message's bottom line
- Summarize the message
- Be precise
- If there is an action required, say so
- Include date and deadline
- Leave out unnecessary words
Now it is time to practice! Click below for a PDF of emails inspired by the characters in our Torah. Happy Writing!
| Email Subject Line Practice (PDF)|
|File Size: ||172 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|
We would like to share this free upcoming event. Cyd Weissman, The Director of Innovation in Congregational Education at The Jewish Education Project, along with other visionary leaders will be a panel speaker!
The UJA-Federation of New York Himan Brown Charitable Trust Symposium SeriesConnected Congregations:
From Dues and Membership to Sustaining Communities of Purpose
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
UJA-Federation of New York
130 East 59th Street
New York City
Space is limited.
A connected congregation is one that deeply understands the meaning of community, and works explicitly to build a strong, meaningful, and engaged Jewish community. It prioritizes relationships and shared values, and aligns all aspects of institutional management in service of the community.
-- Lisa Colton, founder of Darim Online
As our Jewish community advances and changes in response to the ever-evolving needs of its participants, we look to our synagogues for inspiration, connection, and shared purpose. Our congregations, however, are facing an important moment of self-determination and the need to align their purpose to the sacred as well as the strategic and sustainable. On May 29th, SYNERGY: UJA-Federation and Synagogues Together invites you and the leadership of your congregation or organization to take part in a groundbreaking conference. Join us as we:
Engage with visionary leaders to interpret current trends impacting synagogues:
- Cyd Weissman, Director, Innovation in Congregational Education, The Jewish Education Project
Lisa Colton, Founder and Director of Darim Online
Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Senior Fellow at Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and author of Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future
- Reveal new research findings about the alignment of synagogue models and congregational purpose:
Beth Cousens, Independent Researcher, Imagine: Jewish Education Consulting
If you are unable to come in person and are interested in participating through live stream, contact email@example.com and indicate your name, organization, position, and e-mail in order to receive a link to log in on the day of the conference. Feel free to forward along this conference information to others in your community who may be interested.
- Connect with New York synagogue and organizational leaders to consider the possibilities for sustaining our sacred communities
For more information or to request an assisted-listening device, contact Neely Grobani at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Anna MarxMy Ordinary World
I was never very interested in “marketing.” It was a scary word I closely associated with something even worse – sales
. The word “sales” still brings up images in my mind of Willy Loman and working tirelessly to convince
people they need your product. The introvert in me still shudders thinking about it. The Call to Adventure
So, I quite surprised myself when I signed up for a webinar on marketing and storytelling. I found myself enraptured by the presenter, Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars.
He spoke about a completely different kind of marketing than the stereotype in my head. He talked about “Empowerment Marketing” – inspiring audiences to improve the world through your stories. I immediately ran down the street to my local bookstore and ordered his book. I’ve always loved stories since I was a little girl listening to my grandmother tell me stories of her life and our family for hours. Crossing the Threshold
A few chapters into Sachs’ book and I felt like a veil had been lifted. He spoke about two kinds of marketing: the broadcast
marketing of my childhood, based on audiences’ anxieties, and empowerment
marketing, based on audiences’ real values. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, I saw the broadcast advertisements and noticed how they were designed to incite negative feelings deep inside – Lysol commercials to scare me about how dangerous every surface of my house was to my daughter, Cover Girl commercials to make me feel badly about my skin. “Ha! Can’t scare me anymore!” I said. “I see through you!”
And then I started seeing empowerment marketing – that uses the hero’s journey – everywhere, too. Obama won his first campaign with empowerment (Yes We
Can), while at the same time the Tea Party empowered conservatives who had had enough and wanted to see change (you can almost hear them saying “Yes We Can” too). Of course, the hero’s journey is everywhere in literature – Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Exodus. And it clicked when I went to see Les Mis
that it, too, perfectly follows the Hero’s Journey (Valjean goes on a lifelong and difficult journey of morality and faith. Ultimately, he emerges the perfect hero, always choosing the seemingly impossible right choices). The Struggle
Even though I saw these stories everywhere, Sachs’ message didn't fully sink in until one night in synagogue. Following Shabbat evening services, we were invited to listen to guest speakers from Eden House – a two-year program designed to help women escape the sex trade and transition into life. A graduate of the program spoke to us about her experience. She was kidnapped as a 12 year-old girl, forced into prostitution and drug addiction. She spent thirty years
as a drug-addicted prostitute. Imprisoned more than 200 times, a nun came to her in jail and invited her to join a house where she would be loved and cared for and could, for the first time, build a life for herself. She refused. “That’s not for me. Look at me. I’m no one. I’m nothing.” The nun was persistent and finally convinced the young woman. She told us the story of the long, sometimes wonderful, sometimes unbelievably difficult two-year journey. Her life did not begin until she was 45 years old. And there she stood, right in front of me, an articulate, beautiful, strong, intelligent, African-American woman. I could not see a trace of the shell of a human being she once was, and yet, there she was. And today, she works for the program, doing outreach to other prostitutes, convincing them, “I survived and I emerged, and so can you.” I promise you, there was not a dry eye in the house. The Treasure
So what does this have to do Sachs? This incredible woman told her real story to us and it followed the hero’s journey. Perfectly
. The reluctant hero (“what’s so special about me?”), the persistent mentor, the long difficult journey, and the emergence as a real and true hero, one that we can all look to with great awe. Why does this story hit the heart? It’s not familiar to us. Do you know many prostitutes? I don’t. But, because she was the reluctant hero, because she was just a real and regular person to begin with, we can all see just a tiny bit of ourselves in her. And when we hear her unbelievable story, we can say, “She did it; she transformed. Maybe I can, too.”The Road Back
And that is why we use the hero’s journey format to tell stories. Do all stories perfectly fit the template? Of course not. But in the very best stories, we can find the most important elements (a reluctant hero, a powerful mentor, a transformation that comes from great personal struggle). And if we tell the story with these elements, highlight them, tell the story in this particular order, we can give our audiences the same feeling. “She did it; she transformed. Maybe I can, too.” And that’s what we’re all about: transformation. Another Call to Adventure
We are on a journey together. It’s not easy, no journey worth taking is. It’s new. It’s different. It’s uncomfortable. How do we find stories that “fit” the hero’s journey? Why should we anyway? Please, let me be the persistent mentor. Let your consultant be your mentor. Follow us. Come on this journey. Take your best stories and see which ones fit the elements of the hero’s journey. Start telling these stories. See which ones make your audience’s goosebumps pop up. Come with us. The treasure at the end is well worth the dragons we will slay along the way.
Our world is badly in need of solutions in so many spheres – economic, social and environmental to name just a few. The ability to dream up and spread these solutions lives or dies on the ability to tell great stories that inspire people to think differently. Nothing is more urgent than that right now.
Winning The Story Wars, Jonah Sachs
How are we doing in the Story Wars of Congregational Education?
Until we craft a new story that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue we can’t break down the limitations of imagination. Without imagination, without lifting our eyes and hearing what’s possible, we’re in mitzrayim
- a narrow place.
You can’t just tell a new story. You have to earn one.
In New York we are earning a new story: one life at a time. So at our Yachdav yearly Gathering of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, in May, at the City Winery, each of the fifty congregations who have created new models of Jewish education are telling the story of one person or one family whose life has changed because of the powerful educational and communal experiences they have had.
We’re telling the story in a way that sticks. Anna Marx, the media and marketing project director for our department, gave us a template for story telling used by the experts in story changing. The template, known as the hero’s journey
, is regularly used in literature, and advertising to show struggle and triumph. That’s the key, to tell the story so the reader can experience the lows and highs too.
Try it with your team. What’s the struggle and the triumph? What’s enabled it? And this is a story about changing people’s lives now. We don’t know where a child or family will be in five or ten years. At least I’m going to humbly say I don’t. But we can say over six months or a year, we know someone well enough, we’ve been involved deeply enough to say we’ve invited them on an adventure, supported them and watched them grow so that they are richer than when it all started. That’s a story we are achieving. That’s the way to win the Story Wars.See the detailed instruction template for how to tell your heroes journey to prepare for Yachdav on May 9th:
| Yachdav 2013 Telling Your Story (PDF)|
|File Size: ||527 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|
By Jessica DeGrado and Miriam Brosseau
Noticing is a central piece of the practice of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. We build it in into our work, and use noticing tools and targets to help us improve our teaching and the experience of our learners.
Noticing has recently taken center stage in the general education world as well, with a new award-winning book by Miriam Sherin on noticing in mathematics.
In the foreword to the book Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, explains the importance of teacher noticing as a central practice of teaching that makes it learnable. She writes, “This book opens and unpacks this construct, tracing its foundations and scope and displaying insights garnered from studies of teacher noticing. It offers both language and frameworks for making more precise the study of teaching practice and the resources needed for its skillful enactment.”