Getting to Know You

The other day, while getting a haircut, I ran into retired colleague from work, who used to be a member at TAS (I found this out when I invited him to a MoTAS event). I asked him why he left, and among his reasons was the fact that he really didn’t know anyone at Temple. This is something I’ve heard from a few others. When you are not actively involved with the religious school and its events, it seems hard to get to know people.

Luckily, there is an easy answer. Get involved (and, especially, get involved with MoTAS and Sisterhood). But, you say, these groups are cliques — everyone knows everyone else, and the newcomer is on the outside. That is simply not true. At every MoTAS meeting, we introduce ourselves and say something about ourselves, just as if everyone there was a newcomer. MoTAS is an easy way to get to know some of the other men in the congregation (independent of the kids), find common interests and goals, and work together to do good.

If you’re a man at TAS, we invite you to come to any MoTAS activity and let us build that relationship with you.

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Finding the Will

Back in March, I got to do the D’var Torah for the TAS Board. My parasha was Exodus 35:21 where the congregation built the tabernacle, that is, “every one whose heart stirred them up, and everyone who their spirit made willing”. The congregation of the willing brought the offerings needed to do this; they did the service and were (in turn) filled with wisdom and understanding to know how to work all the work for the service of the sanctuary. Those in leadership — both congregational and MoTAS — tend to surround ourselves with the willing. Who we need to reach, however, are the unwilling. We need to learn why they are unwilling, and what we can do as leaders to help them find the will. Specifically, for MoTAS, what can we do to make you willing to be involved? Different activities? Different times? Unfortunately, it is unlikely the unwilling are reading this. But you, as part of the willing, are. Please talk to those you know who are unwilling, and let us know how we can listen to them and find more people willing to become active in MoTAS. And, by the way, we’re not asking the unwilling to be board members. Start small: attend a single meeting or activity. We would like to get to know you better.

It’s In You

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Shabbat service at Wilshire Blvd. Temple. During the service, Rabbi Leder talked about the Torah portion, which included a detailed description of the building of the Tabernacle. He pointed out that although one might think the Tabernacle was being built as the home for G-d, the portion was clear that it wasn’t. Rather, the notion was that G-d would reside in the Jewish people G-d would be a part of each and everyone one of us.

That’s a notion that resonated with me, and that resonance became strong when I thought of MoTAS. What makes us strong as MoTAS is not the buildings we meet in or even the specific things we do — it is the spirit within us that binds us as brother to brother. It is the relationships between men that turn into friendships, and those friendships that turn into unbreakable bonds that are essentially at the level of family. It is this connection and spirit that makes MoTAS special, and it is one of the reasons why those of use active in MoTAS love our MoTAS brothers.

We invite you to join in the bond: be part of our brotherhood of friends. Come to a membership meeting, come to one of our activities, or just come up to one of us at a Shabbat and say “Shalom”. You’re always welcome with us.

Demonstrating You’re There

I go to a lot of live theatre. Actors love to have a full house — even if some seats are discounted — because the energy of everyone participating makes the entire production better. I saw this effect recently from the TAS Board in relation to the end of year Tzedakah campaign: it was stressed how important it was for everyone on the Board to particpate, at whatever level they could afford, because of the message it sent. This notion stuck with me, and builds upon the theme of our recent MoTAS Shabbat: The men of TAS being role models.

When you participate in an event as a man of TAS, you send a message through your participation. You demonstrate how the Men of TAS are there for the congregation in all its activities and endeavors. Time and financial constraints may limit our abilities to participate as fully as we might like, but doing whatever we can, whenever we can, says a lot to our leadership. This is true for congregational activities, and it is equally true for MoTAS activities.

When you receive a mailing, email, or call asking you to participate, think about what your participation — or non-participation — says. More importantly, think about what your participation does: it allows you create relationships with other participants, and strengthen your bond to the congregation. Ultimately, it is that bond that keeps MoTAS and TAS strong: people caring about other people, and being there — participating — for them.

Making Your Contribution

Nonprofit organizations, such as TAS and MoTAS, thrive on your contributions. Whether contributions of time, contributions of money, or contributions of both — all are important for an organization’s survival. This is especially true of MoTAS, as we are not a dues collecting organization. Being a man, and being a member of TAS are the only requirements to be a member of MoTAS. Further, TAS does not financially support MoTAS in its operations, so the dues you pay to TAS are not indirect dues to MoTAS.

Financially, MoTAS survives on your contributions — primarily contributions to our annual appeal and contributions to our annual Golf Tournament. We held the Golf Tournament in October, and it looks like it did not bring in the surplus we had budgeted. This makes our annual appeal even more important.

In late January (right after the MoTAS Shabbat) we are mailing out our annual appeal letters. We urge you to provide financial support to our operations, at a level that is comfortable to your and that you feel reflects the contribution of MoTAS to your life and to the life of TAS. You may pay by check or credit card with the form in the letter, or you can contribution online at our Support Us link. We thank you in advance for your contributions; contributions $100 or over will be acknowledged on our Wall of Honor.

Enter the Young

A question that has long plagued MoTAS leadership is how to get younger men — dads and college-age men — involved and active. We’re not alone in this; the question is regularly raised on Yammer (the URJ discussion board). It’s also not just a MoTAS question; congregations are also faced on how to get young adults involved in congregational life before school draws them in.

We do have some ideas. In the Spring, we’re doing to initiate some activities that are good for the family. We’re going to engage with AEπ at CSUN — they participated in Mitzvah Day, and we’re going to invite them to the MoTAS Shabbat and other events. We’re also open to your suggestions on how to get younger men involved.

We also encourage you to do your part. If you know college age men and men raising families, we encourage you to personally invite them to a MoTAS activity. Everyone benefits from the interchange.

You are MoTAS

At every membership meeting, I remind the men present that our goal is to be a role model of doing things right. What does this mean? To me, it means that we are exemplar representatives: each of us is representative of how people perceive MoTAS: if we’re welcoming, people perceive MoTAS as welcoming; if we’re ethical, people perceive MoTAS as ethic. This notion isn’t unique to MoTAS: it is true for the Temple Board as Ambassadors for the congregation, and it is true for every member of Temple Ahavat Shalom.

The notion of being a role model is fundamentally Jewish. It is captured in the words of Rabbi Hillel in the Talmud, Shabbat 31a, where he boils down the Torah to the following: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.” The way we behave reflects on how newcomers and visitors perceive MoTAS and Temple Ahavat Shalom.

As the Men of Temple Ahavat Shalom and members of Temple Ahavat Shalom, let us strive to be the people we would like to meet and be around. Let us be the person about whom it is said, “I became part of TAS and MoTAS because of him.”.

T-A-G for T-A-S

When I was in my teens, I was a member of the youth group TAG at Wilshire Blvd. Temple. TAG stood for Torah-Avodah-Gem’lut Chasadim. You probably recognize this phrase if you’re familiar with the song Al Shlosha D’varim, derived from Pirke Avot 1:2: Upon three things the world stands: Upon Torah, Upon service, and Upon acts of loving kindness.

In thinking about MoTAS and its role in the congregation, we’ve been a bit unbalanced with respect to T-A-G. We’ve had Torah in our monthly D’var Torahs, in our MoTAS Shabbat (coming in January), and our Men’s Seder. We’ve had Gem’lut Chasadim in the financial support we provide to congregational activities. But our service has been more limited to building the Sukkah and providing food service at events.

This year, MoTAS is leveling things out. We’re joining with the rest of the congregation in participating in Mitzvah Day on the first Sunday in November. We’re going to be “Jews with Tools for the Schools”, as the recent ECEC cleanup demonstrated that there are a number of simple repairs we can make around our school facilities to make them even safer, more functional, and operating efficiently.

But that’s not all: We’re already planning to participate in the Sundays of Service in April 2015, working with the Social Action Committee and Food Forward to pick fruit from trees for the community.

The world stands on three things: Torah, Service, and Good Deeds. We invite you to participate with MoTAS in standing strong in these areas.

What’s in a Name?

At a recent MoTAS event, a participant indicated to me that we’ll always be the Men’s Club to him. It’s a name that even I slip back to when describing our organization to others: We’re the Men’s Club at TAS. I joke that we balance out Temple Beth Hillel: They have a Brotherhood and the Women of TBH, and we have the Men of TAS and a Sisterhood. But there’s a reason why we’re the Men of TAS, so let’s explore what the potential names convey:

  • Brotherhood. This is the traditional name for men’s organizations in congregations. In many ways, it is a great name, for it builds on the notion that all men are brothers. Recall the song in “How to Succeed…Business“: There is a brotherhood of man. But the name is a little old-fashioned and traditional. It is also just a little exclusionary, for the tradition has always been that you JOINED the Brotherhood and paid dues.
  • Men’s Club. This is the other common name for men’s organizations. It goes back to the 1960s, when there were Couples Clubs, Womens Clubs, and Mens Clubs everywhere. There is one major problem. Any notion of a club means that there are members, and some are in and some are out. That is clearly exclusionary, and conveys the message of “no pay, no play”. Although dues are nice (and sometimes necessary), the intent of Reform Judaism is to be a welcoming tent, and membership organizations work against that.
  • Men of …. At the National level, both the National Sisterhood organization and the National Brotherhood organizations have renamed themselves to Women of/Men of Reform Judaism. This is because they want to show they want all of their constituencies to participate. MRJ has gone so far to eliminate dues; participating groups simply contribute what they feel is appropriate for support. MoTAS was the exemplar here: we consider all the men in congregation as members, and although we encourage all of the men of the congregation to support MoTAS, we do not require dues. We want participation–be it financially, through active participation, or both.

When all is said and done, we don’t care what you call us (as long as you don’t call us late to dinner): MoTAS, the Men’s Club, or even the Brotherhood. We’re a group of men who, through active participation and financial support, want to do good for Temple Ahavat Shalom and the Jewish community. I encourage you to become active (I was about to say “join us”) and help in this endeavor. No membership form or dues required. All you need do is come to an event and participate.