The Process of Creating Culture

What do we want people to associate with when they think of our schools? How do we want them to feel when they leave the building? In February, the Jewish Placemaking Accelerator participants took the starting steps toward wrangling with the current culture at their respective institutions and imagining and planning for what it could be.

What five words describe your school?

  • community, welcoming, safe, fun, friendly
  • warm, busy, real/ honest, innovation welcome, team-oriented
  • Inclusive, progressive, creative, communal
  • heymish, creative, flexible, joyful, full
  • Community, Flexible/Accommodating, Warm, Growing
  • dedicated open minded

Who creates culture? These are the people that need to have a voice in the conversation about creating or changing an institution’s culture. 

  • Everyone!
  • My director! She was my intro to this synagogue.
  • My students and their parents.
  • Members/families – this is a place we like to be.
  • The Executive Director of 45 years cultivates an atmosphere of YES.

After reflecting on where we’re starting and who else needs to join the conversation, participants split up by synagogue and started working through a worksheet we created for understanding and managing culture. Folks imagined what some ideal moments or programs at their schools would look like and feel like based on their respective institution’s visions. From those stories we distilled the outcomes we’re trying to achieve and then the goals that would get us there. Next steps are to determine the best strategies to work toward each goal, who else to loop into the plan, what supplies and tools we need, what timeline makes sense to accomplish these changes, whether any approval is needed, and how to tell the story of this amazing work as we’re doing it.

Coming back together as a big group, we reflected on what this process is like. Participants enjoyed getting to look at the big picture of making change, likening the process to changing out the whole plumbing system rather than just trying to replace a single broken sink. We also reflected on what about this work is challenging:

  • Including all the right people
  • Time
  • Emotional energy
  • Experience/confidence
  • Figuring out who to get input from
  • Building buy-in 
  • Pandemic and getting to know folks/culture

We’re excited to see the next steps these educators and directors make in creating the culture they envision for their synagogues and Hebrew schools!

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