Spotlight on The Tribe
Being a young Jewish adult in South Florida is not too shabby. There are a lot of amazing things to keep you occupied, but if you wanted to do something Jewish without the overtones of being asked for money or pushed into synagogue membership, there used to be nothing. So, a group of go-getters based out of Miami Beach's Temple Beth Sholom (TBS) decided to create something special. They sought to create the same type of community that youth group often engenders. With the help of TBS, this group started programming events like wine and food tastings, cooking classes, and Shabbats on the Beach (which remain a Tribe signature event). The lay leaders knew they had something special. They laid an amazing foundation, but something was still missing - it was certainly a young Jewish adult's group, but it wasn’t yet quite a community of its own. Then, we became a Next Dor pilot site.
One of the things the Tribe did with the grant from Next Dor was to hire me. I wish I could write here that I have a degree in Jewish communal organizing and have spent my career doing just that. But the fact is, I'm a former government officer turned Jewish community activist. Since 2006, I've been involved on a volunteer basis in many parts of Jewish community organizing, from Federation to my synagogue. When The Tribe leaders asked if I would like to do the things I enjoy doing anyway on a professional level, I was thrilled. So I started to work with the lay board on the next steps in building on the foundation they had created.
Measuring the impact of becoming a Next Dor site isn't hard. I know that metrics isn't everything, but the numbers really do speak for themselves - we went from 7 events annually to 21 last year. Our Constant Contact list grew from 563 to 838 people, our Facebook group grew from 128 to 466 people, and in the first year as a Next Dor project, over 450 people came to Tribe events. Our biggest endeavor was our first ever free High Holy Day Experience - we rented the Jewish Museum of Florida for Erev Rosh Hashanah and Kol Nidrei, hired a three-person orchestra and brought in a rabbinic intern in her late 20s who wrote a mahzor for the occasion. 115 people attended one or both services. 93 of those told us they were not affiliated anywhere else. We created this amazing opportunity for those people who most likely would not have gone to synagogue for the High Holy Days. That is an impact on our community that can't be overstated. Needless to say, this will be an annual tradition.
How did we transform from a young adults group into a real community? We have amazing events, including Jewish Book Club, an outing to the Miami Jewish Film Festival, Mitzvah Day with Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Poker Night, Havdallah with the Teva Bus, a Purim costume party, group outing to a Matisyahu concert, Jewish Yoga on the Beach, and a Passover cooking class - but The Tribe is about so much more than events. We are about cultivating relationships and connections. We are making connections among young Jewish adults. We are making connections between young Jewish adults and their heritage. And we are making connections between young Jewish adults and Temple Beth Sholom.
We build communities without pretense, by facilitating a wide variety of events and sub-groups, enabling connections to be built between Jews in the context of Jewish spirituality (even our poker events have a tzedakah component!). We keep barriers low by subsidizing events as much as possible, and by looking for venues that are non-threatening to those who aren't comfortable in traditional religious settings. We build communities in the plural, because this is our goal - creating a community of communities. We aim to create semi-autonomous groups with their own leadership structures, but ultimately tied to one another.
My favorite way of expressing how our community creation works is Facebook - I watch with joy as people who meet at Tribe events "friend" each other on the site. There are plenty of stories of couples who have met, of spin-off groups (like a Jewish women's club), and of people who have been given the opportunity to become more involved in our community, either through taking on leadership responsibilities with us or re-connecting with Judaism in non-traditional ways like Shabbat on the Beach.
That we’ve been transformed by Next Dor into something bigger than our founders originally imagined cannot be overstated – we’ve evolved from a young adults group that offered unique activities to an organization that strives to have a meaningful impact on our community by building connections. We have a lot we still want to do, but we are really proud of what we have done in the Sunshine State to date!