This is The Belonging Project – a cutting edge initiative that merges scientific research, relational best practices, and ancient Jewish wisdom.
In the spring of 2022, Clal joined with the Springtide Research Institute to pilot a survey of belongingness in seven synagogues across the U.S. and Canada. Then, we created a custom report of their belonging scores and action recommendations. The aggregate study includes 1,100 respondents, and it is the very first scientifically-based, quantitative study of belonging in the Jewish community.
- When congregants feel they belong, they contribute more of their time, money, and support. For example, high belonging congregants were over 12 times more likely to donate money and 3.5 times more likely to recommend the synagogue to others.
- One-on-one connections and small groups produced a much greater sense of belonging; virtual programming scored lowest.
- All pilot congregations were enthusiastic about putting the report’s recommendations into practice with their boards, clergy, and congregants.
Humans are hard-wired to thrive when we are in mutually supportive communities. Over the last several decades in North America, though, the ties that bind neighbor to neighbor have weakened, if not snapped completely. We have lost a sense of place, a sense of home, a sense of belonging. We are lonelier than ever before, to the detriment of our physical, mental, and civic health.
Faith communities are uniquely positioned to address this loneliness epidemic. These communities value deep connection, caring, and mutual support. However, we don’t always design our events, programs, staffing, services, and structures to maximize belonging.
Bring Belonging to Your Community
Jewish community institutions of all kinds can maximize belonging. Clal offers a variety of ways to bring The Belonging Project to your community, including:
Belonging @ Synagogue
A menu of offerings for synagogues and emergent start-up communities kicking off their belonging work, including use of the congregational survey, customized coaching, communities of practice, and scholar-in-residence opportunities
Belonging @ the J
Customized survey and offerings for the JCC environment
Belonging @ Work
Survey measuring belonging among staff of Jewish organizations (Federations and other nonprofits, encouraging staff retention, employee engagement, and organizational growth).
A first-of-its-kind sociological report with the Springtide Research Institute on belonging in synagogues
Kick off your community’s belonging work by bringing in a Clal faculty member to teach about belonging in Jewish community
When you are a large synagogue, it is easy to either assume that everyone feels connected, or to assume that nobody does. We can experiment with all sorts of programming, relationship building, and other tactics, but without data, those things are akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall, however well intentioned. Working with CLAL and Springtide Research has provided us with actual feedback and, even better, the targeted areas where we can focus on building our sense of belonging among our 2700 families. This opportunity has taken us from guessing to knowing, an invaluable gift indeed.
— Jodi Berman, Associate Executive Director, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, CA
Participating in Clal’s Belonging Project and learning from Rabbi Appel is helping our leadership team develop a strategy for moving from being a place where people “join” and may feel “welcome” to being a place where our congregants are “comfortable” and feel they “belong.” Based on the survey and the follow up presentations, we recognize that there are places and programs already in place where we can deepen our relationships and connections organically and intentionally and that we can create more such opportunities. We are grateful to the insights and the tools Clal provided us.
— Judy Zeprun Kalman, President, Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough, MA