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What a Ride!

By Murray Kalis

These days, a lot of articles start with ‘What a year!’ That’s certainly true for your Mishkon Membership Committee. Only, let’s change it to “What a ride!”

Years past, being Membership Chair was like riding a merry-go-round. Nice and level and pretty sure you’d end up where you started, plus a few new members to make the numbers.

Not so, for 2020-21.

Suddenly, we went from a merry-go-round to a roller coaster. And, wow, what a ride it’s been! When the pandemic started, membership seemed to pick up. (I think a lot of people thought it was time to pray.) Then, as we had to close up, our membership roller coaster started heading down.

Times were tough. Like the population in general, some of our members found their incomes reduced or, sadly, eliminated. It seemed like the downside part was picking up speed.

Fortunately, three things happened almost simultaneously. (1) Mishkon supporters upped their participation and donations, so much so they put Mishkon’s balance sheet in the black. (2) Rabbi Botnick, the choir, Rabbi Dan, and active lay members combined to make a wonderful, fulfilling, and professional quality Zoom High Holy Days. (3) The Membership Committee came up with a slogan that truly expressed the Mishkon spirit: Our Doors May Be Closed, But Our Hearts Are Still Open.

That slogan kicked off virtual services and programs, along with a special check-in outreach to the congregation through the “Mishkon Is Calling” initiative. Pandemic or no, Mishkon was back on the upswing.

Then came the dark days of winter, and a time when we had to say goodbye to Rabbi Botnick and start a search for a replacement. The result was that some of the members put off their renewals even longer, while calls from prospective new members dwindled to zip. It began to look like we were on the downhill tracks at Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags, and Disneyland combined.

But then came Rabbi Josh, and the fastest turnaround this committee chair has ever seen. The vaccines and the promise of a brighter future all added to the momentum.

(FYI, it’s worth joining Mishkon if for no other reason than to hear Rabbi Josh play his electric guitar rendition of Hatikvah, a la Jimi Hendrix. Rock on!)

Right away, over two-thirds of non-renewing members renewed. Others quit ghosting us. And prospective new-member calls started making the administrative office phone lines ring loud and clear.

Meanwhile, substituting a boomerang metaphor for the roller coaster one, we are welcoming back members who left and joined elsewhere, missed Mishkon like crazy, and have now returned. (My original idea for this article was an interview with one of our happy returnees, but shyness prevailed.)

Anyway, you get the idea. Would it be too sacrilegious to say our prayers have been answered? 

So, if you are one of the few holdouts, or better yet, have a friend who is looking to reconnect with their Judaism, there has never been a better time to call Mishkon’s Executive Director, Kelley Courtney, or Mishkon’s Membership Maven, Carole Eule at 310-454-7719. (Hint: We have memberships to fit any budget, no waiting necessary.)

Ready? Then come join up for the next 100 years at the longest-lasting and fastest-growing synagogue on the Westside: Mishkon Tephilo.

Things are looking up!

Mon, June 5 2023 16 Sivan 5783