by Rebecca Dinar
Director of The Open Tent, Temple Beth Shalom
On September 28, at around 7:45 PM, Remy poked her head inside the Miami Jewish Museum to find out what was happening. The 33-year-old worked for a French company and was in the middle of a three-year post in Miami. Remy knew it was Erev Rosh Hashana, but with her family thousands of miles away she opted for a long walk. By chance she ended up on the steps of the Museum located just a few blocks from her apartment in the heart of Miami Beach.
“We are celebrating the Jewish New Year,” said a volunteer at the door, “Would you like to join us?” Remy’s face lit up as she joined nearly 200 young, Jewish professionals for The Tribe’s second annual High Holiday service.
The Tribe’s High Holiday experience, which also included Kol Nidre services on Erev Yom Kippur and a break fast event, has become a hallmark of the group that has been hosting Miami-based events for people age 22 to 39 for more than five years. Like Remy, approximately 80% of the attendees were from somewhere other than Miami and 83% percent were not affiliated with a synagogue.
The Tribe was started by a small group of college graduates who were returning home to stay with their parents – long time affiliates of Temple Beth Sholom (or TBS, the largest Reform synagogue on Miami Beach). They worked with their Rabbi to develop a group of like-minded 20 and 30 somethings who wanted to create Jewish networking and social events. The volunteer-led team developed a logo, business cards and a database, and launched The Tribe’s popular programming, which included Shabbat on the Beach and Discussions with a Rabbi: Does God Belong in the Bedroom? By all accounts the endeavor was a success, but eventually they aged out. Several board members got married and began having children. A small handful of Tribe regulars – some with little or no TBS affiliation – assumed board positions.
Around that time The Tribe was selected by Synagogue 3000 to be a Next Dor pilot site. Thanks to Next Dor, The Tribe hired staff and tripled the number of events they produced. Cooking classes, Kayaking Havdalah, a book club and a poker night, were among the new offerings. The group even adopted the section of the beach they used for Shabbat on the Beach. Conscious of the Next Dor mandate to build community, they kept copious retention notes and added and subtracted programming based on what worked and what did not. Their database quadrupled its size from just over five hundred to nearly two thousand email addresses. Thanks to Next Dor, The Tribe had reached a new threshold.
In the days before the High Holiday events, the small Tribe board began to think about programming for the coming year. They felt that their activities needed a new boost. They began discussing innovative ways to attract and sustain new leadership. They reached out to their local partners, including Birthright NEXT and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Network, for help. NEXT recommended former fellows who would be great candidates for The Tribe Board; and the Federation recommended others. After a series of one-on-one meetings, new candidates signed on. Profoundly committed to building Jewish community, this new group expanded The Tribe’s reach and brought a new wave of energy and enthusiasm. To sustain their interest, the Tribe developed a series of activities modeled after the leadership development of organizations like Hazon. The young leaders loved being in a room with like-minded peers, discussing the issues they care about most. Strong leadership has always been key to The Tribe’s success. Together, the potential of this diverse group is limitless.
Successfully cultivating relationships and producing innovative programs that motivate people and offer opportunities to connect Jewishly is what the Tribe is all about. This year the Tribe will work to build greater awareness among the thousands of young Jews who live on Miami Beach by strengthening their online presence and overall social networking. In addition, they will add a new series of high quality programs, called Hebrew School Drop Outs: A Primer.