LC Meeting: 2/9/11

Attendees: Rebecca Murow, Deena Fox, Rachel Bergstein, Julia Zuckerman, Ariella Kurshan, Rachel Salzman, Gil Landau, Avi Kumin, Dina Epstein, Dena Roth


1. Social Action

RS: had involved discussion with Lilah Pomerance about the extent to which DC Minyan cares about social action. This may be a convo about my ďplanned obsolesence.Ē Not sure we can be everything to everyone -- we have low turnout to sandwich making, and thatís 1 hour once a month. The fact is that there is little interest: I am not sure that we as a community that we should be investing time/space/energy to this.


DF: The question is do people think our program should continue even in its current form? And do people think we have both interest in and resources for an expansion of the program?


RS: Or third, do you think we should just put resources up on the website to identify programs for people and leave it at that.


GL: What are the numbers of attendees?


RS: Havenít checked in the last month because have been too busy.  I do have theories about people signing up because they feel guilty but not showing. Another theory is that people say that they are interested because they are already doing social action in their personal lives, but donít need that organized by DC Minyan.


DE: I like the idea of sandwich making because I like the idea of the community doing something like that.  I never had a misimpression that it was a super-attended thing; maybe the idea is to have a once a year event.


RS: My understanding is that we have tried that in the past and attendance is still really low. The first week we did sandwich making (in September befoer RH) we got a good turnout and did a happy hour after. Now 2-3 people come (including me).  


AKurshan: the monthly aspect cuts both ways. People might come to expect to see it every month, on the other hand, people might think that if I miss it this month, I can go next month.


RB: I think it is fine if it disappears for now. I think it is cyclical. We could put in a place holder announcement and do it again if interest rises.  You should not have to feel like youíre doing enormous amounts of recruitment for nothing.  


RS: Well, so the other problem is that we had one person over the summer who was really upset about not having enough social action programs.


AKumin:  I donít think Iím ready to eliminate the position altogether.


RM: There are positions that are less intensive -- like Greening Committee, etc.


GL: Integrating social action and showing people that it exists are important. No reason to have a monthly event that no one goes to, and we can keep telling people about it, but we can also just reinvigorate it when the interest reappears.  


AKurshan: I like the idea of trying to roll social action into existing programs.  One idea is to connect some events to the membership drive, when weíre trying to reach out to people.


DE: Would it be anathema to do sandwich making and some kind of jobs network event?


RS: That is a hell of a lot of work for programs that have low turnout.


DF: I also think thatís getting away from our mission.  


JZ: Iíd be curious to know the history of social action at the Minyan.


RS: We apparently did a survey and a report was written. I think it was part of the Dialogue.  


DF: My understanding is that it was a few discrete events.  Then there was one ongoing program involving meals for a womenís shelter and then that relationship went array.


JZ: I think itíd be helpful for Rachel to have a better sense of longterm history. Iíd like a longer view before we do something drastic like take this position off of the LC.


DE: Maybe we have to invest some time in being more creative about events, and varying it up from just sandwich making.  


RB: Yes, what about doing something like DC Minyan doing Habitat for Humanity. Something active that is a chunk of time. Doing something different is worth a shot. But, if thereís no interest then no reason to waste the energy.  


AKumin: In terms of what approach to take, Iím all in favor of getting rid of sandwich making as opposed to getting rid of the social action position.  


RS: But, there isnít really a clamour for any of it.


DE: But you create it. There wasnít one for a Lag BíOmer bbq until we had one.


DF: I think itís reasonable to try another big day event, but Iím not convinced that people are really interested.  It is also a question of what the benefit is: why are we doing it?


DR: I think that there are 2 models: the first is having regular opportunities for people who consider themselves ďsocial action peopleĒ and then the question becomes, well why are we doing this as a Minyan for such a small (if not negligible) group; the second is having annual or biannual opportunities for people who donít consider themselves ďsocial action peopleĒ and who want discrete, defined, ready-made volunteer opportunities that are active, fun, and allow them to be among familiar faces of friends. I think in that model you have less of a problem of the why we are doing this because itís clear its at least a Jewish value and then weíre advancing that value in some way for people in our community who werenít otherwise doing it.  


JZ: There are lots of options we havenít tried.


AKurshan: How many programs does DC Minyan have that are non-Shabbat, non-holiday-connected events? I canít think of any.  I think itís hard to get people to non-Shabbat events. I think having a holiday connection makes a big difference. Maybe thatís a key.


AKumin: Is there something we can do thatís shabbasdik? Like visiting sick?


AKurshan: Iíve thought about it, but itís hard.


RM: Next step is are we going to cancel sandwich making.  We have one more next week. If we get a good turnout, we can revisit it, but if we donít, then maybe we can consider canceling.  


RS: I appreciate all of this feedback, let me just close by saying that itís great none of you want to get rid of it, but how many of you want to actually come yourselves?


2.  Budget

AKumin: Long story short, weíre doing pretty good. We spend about $110k annually, and out net spending (after income we take in),  is $69k. That is about $7k more than last year.  That is more than 10% in one year -- a big change.  A number of committees requested and are receiving increases: some are just reflecting administrative in nature and were taking place before and weíre actually in our budget.  E.g. last year we bought D&O insurance.  The web design was never in the budget before this year.  Chinuch asked for more $$ for honoraria -- previously it was $1500k/lunch and learn event and we upped that to $2500k per event.  That allows us to attract bigger names/speakers.  BM had some long term purchase of book and cart plans which is reflected.  Greening Committee requested $$ for non-disposable plates. Hospitality requested $$ for another mystery guest shabbat dinner. Special Events requested funding for 5th shabbat programming. That all roughly adds up to $7k more than last year.  But the good news is that we can pay for it.  Our expected 2011 net income is $115k, which puts at $4600 above expected expenses. So even with $7k increase, and conservative income assumptions, we should be able to absorb it. Total cash on hand, $113,644k.  Anticipated cushion is $44.5k

The larger question is ought we to absorb it? Should we be saving more? Is this a big ticket item for us in the future? Building? Rabbi? Or just some sense of financial security?


JZ: Why have been able to save so much?


AKumin: Membership drive has been more effective, more people are joining, we started a savings account which has a better interest rate, we are better about collecting. All those things combined.  No definitive answer.  


AKurshan: 2 overarching things are Aviís increased collecting practices and better membership drives.


AKumin: So, thatís that. Quick question is that we tend to have pretty good payment on most things: meaning, some people forget but when we follow-up they pay.  We probably get 95% collection.  But, there are stragglers.  In the membership drive we got hundreds of people plus high holiday tickets, and of those I corresponded with at least a hundred to get payment.  Most people have paid. Some people have sent an initial email and then nothing.  I follow up and I donít get a response.  What should we do about those people?


AKumin: I think itís worth handing that responsibility over to someone else at that point.


JZ: I am happy to do that. I can guarantee success.


Vote to pass budget: unanimously passes.


3. Hospitality

GL: Our committee met and spoke about how we can better welcome new members.  New members feel especially estranged from the leadership and donít feel that there is a connection.  There seems to be a high barrier for people. Hospitality is the same issue. I get lots of available tables and often no one will ask for a spot, and yet I know there are people who need a meal.  We felt that if the LC as a whole committed to hosting meals with a spot set aside for someone, that would be great. It would also set a good example.  


DE: How does this tie in with Becca Sendor Israelís initiative?


GL: That was devoted to getting members to reach out to new members.


DF: Though, a lot of us did that through hosting meals.  


DE: I thought that was a good model, because instead of forcing you to look for new faces at kiddush, this allows you to plan ahead and target people a few weeks out.  I did it this way.  Having a database of people who are interested in being invited is great.  


JZ: But Gil is saying that people arenít asking for hospitality.  


DE: I like to know who is coming and be able to reach out in advance.  Some times I have even throw together a meal on a Wednesday or Thursday.  


GL: Very few people email ahead of time.  By and large, most weeks I do not have anyone asking.  When it does happen, itís usually in advance.


RB: Why do you think that sending an email and creating a database for people to sign up, why do think that will be different?


GL: Because itís not amorphous. You have a name, you know where youíre going.


AKumin: Plus, then you donít feel like youíre crashing someone elseís meal.


DE: I think we need a larger pool of people to draw from as hosts.  Itís too much for us to do. We could have people put asterisks next to their name if they are hosts.  Or something like that.


GL: I think the turnout will be a lot less than you think.  If its an option, I think thatís the key.


RB: Why LC and SC, v. everyone?


AKumin: More established members of the community.


JZ: I am happy to host, but I do not like finding out on Thursday night.  I need to be able to plan. As to why just LC-SC, I think we should empower people to host themselves.  

RM: Seriously, why not turn this around so that people are inviting LC-SC people.  


DE: They are they.


AKumin: Instead of asking people, I would create the list ourselves.  


AKurshan: I think we want to enhance hospitality for everyone: leaders, nonleaders, members, etc.  


DF: I think creating a list of new members for leaders and others to try and host is valuable, but Iím not sure we need to go beyond that.


DE: I think its important that dafka it is not just the leadership.  Making it just on leaders creates a dichotomy which is the wrong model: everyone is a member.  


AKumin: Another idea is to get people to meet each other well before Shabbat meals come into play. Like just in shul.  E.g. purple button crew at Adis.  I think some sort of sustained effort to greet and meet is a good way to go.  


GL: We do have greeters, but they want to remain anonymous.  


DF: Plus, greeters are successful when they help connect you to others.  


DE: Hospitality does a great job; kiddush is a really hard way to meet people. Mystery guest shabbat is totally different: I developed relationships with the people I had over. Shul is not an easy place to start a relaionship.  


GL: Thatís why my focus is on meals.  Thatís how I make friends.  Thatís why I want to find a way to get people more interested in hosting.


DE: Our kiddushes have so improved and we end up having bagels, lox a lot. What if once every 6 weeks we set up some tables and chairs and invited people to an extended kiddush, where we just make it casual and people donít go to meals after.


GL: I like that idea.  But, I donít think it should be done at the expense of enhancing hosted meals.


AKurshan: we should try to announce that we have spots, explicitly.


DE: We might even identify people who have the spots during the announcements.


DF: The hospitality program has expanded a lot in the last year or two with the mystery guest shabbat, Beccaís list, chanukah candle lighting, etc. Maybe weíve reached a point where we stick where we are for a little while and see what kind of connections we get.  


GL: What if we had a list of people who sign up to host a meal each week. Just so that we have a name who picks a date.  


4. Blurbs for ďget involvedĒ in the Minyan

RM: This leads us to our next topic.  Usually we send a call for participants email for our services, but this year we are thinking about broadening it to include interest in other opportunities (social action, etc.).  Each committee should send a blurb with their opportunities to send in the email.


5. Kashrut Taskforce

RB: We are ready to move to next part of this process, which would be community meetings. The document has just been updated a tiny bit to resolve some of the outstanding issues:

-The idea of asking kiddush coordinators has been taken out.

-We have decided to accept all hashgachot that are certified by a certification, as opposed to self-certification.  Includes triangle and tablet Ks.

(As an aside, I want to change the doc to take out the work ďhechsherĒ).  The document that weíll then take to community meetings.


DR: My only response is I do not think we should have more than two of these meetings.


DF: Agreed. Maybe only one.


GL: We can include a statement about how if you cannot attend, you can email so and so. Then have a second meeting if necessary.


DF: The run-down:

-informal hospitality: match host according to guest, but never traif meat or meat-dairy mixing.

-hopsitality coordinated by the Minyan (i.e. Mystery Guest Shabbat): the meal has to be certified kosher/vegetarian, and if the host has used non certified ingredients or traif, they will use FAQ to make their home and preparation comport with kashrut.

-formal DC Minyan events (i.e. kiddush, lunch and learn): all certified but has to be certified by outside body.


RB: We decided that we cannot be in the business of telling people what certifications are ok or not ok.  We will accept all certifications.


DE: Is there some way we can sponsor or charge for mystery guest shabbats so that sometimes hosts can just order a meal?


(Short discussion on that -- basically some not in favor .


RB: Great so moving forward weíll have community meetings.


AKumin: I think we start with one meeting and see how it goes.


DF: Whether to have FAQ ready in discussion . . . whether will have the final FAQ ready for mid-March seems unlikely but we should push forward with it.


JZ: Maybe even just having a sample FAQ for the meeting would be good.






Items to discuss at future LC meetings:

-5th shabbat programming

-follow-up on having sit down kiddush once every 6 weeks