Rabbi’s Corner: Ted Lasso, Strengthening Bonds, & Our Preneg Pilot Program (5:15 pm today!)

I needed a little distraction to help me unwind immediately following Rosh Hashanah before diving into preparing for Yom Kippur. Many people recommended that I watch Ted Lasso, they said it was fantastic. I am hooked! Ted Lasso is a heartwarming comedy series. Despite the fact that Ted has absolutely no soccer experience whatsoever, he’s been recruited (along with his best buddy) away from coaching an American college football team to coaching a struggling English soccer team. Ted is unconventional. He uses some “out of the box” coaching and relationship-building techniques. Ted not only inspires his team and leads them to success both on and off the “pitch” (British for “field”), he also forges deep connections with the players, staff and the owners. The show revolves around the themes of strengthening bonds, leadership development and personal growth – via the catalysts of keen observation, meeting people “where they are,” anticipating needs, humor, and feel-good moments.

As I binge-watched four episodes in a row, I realized that Ted Lasso is a wonderful metaphor for what we are called upon to do during this time of year on our Jewish calendar. This special Shabbat in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called “Shabbat Shuvah – Sabbath of Turning (or repentance).” It is an integral part of our Aseret Y’mei T’shuvah, our 10 Days of Repentance. As individuals, we consider our actions from the past year and how we can turn things around to become the best we can be. As a Jewish religious community, aleinu – it is up to us – to turn inward and reflect on how our TBS community can also “turn things around” and become even stronger, more vibrant, more inclusive. Sometimes this means stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new and different. Ted Lasso was able to achieve success because he loved experimenting. He wasn’t afraid of failing. He says (paraphrased): it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about creating a team, about the relationships we build and the character of our players and staff.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, also relished experimenting and trying new things. “If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far,” he once told an interviewer. Every successful company, organization, business, institution, and synagogue spends time observing our constituents, anticipating needs, aiming to meet people “where they are,” and then experimenting, piloting new programs, evaluating and tweaking them.

Our theme for our 5784 High Holy Days is “Strengthening Bonds.” In order to do so, we need to reflect upon where TBS has been successful and express gratitude. However, we also need to reflect upon where TBS is “missing the mark?” Where can we experiment and try to reach a broader demographic of our congregation? Where can we do so, like Ted Lasso, with a sense of joy, exuberance, humor all while keeping in mind TBS’s vision, mission, and goals?

Our Worship Committee realized that one place we should re-examine was our Monthly Shir Joy Intergenerational Musical Shabbat. This beautiful, participatory, upbeat service began earlier this year in January. Our Shir Joy Ensemble is comprised of people of all ages, from 9-90. It was our hope that it would attract congregants from every demographic group with its lively music, and it’s opening and welcoming nature to all. What happened? The 7:00 PM service time precluded families with young children from attending. The Oneg Shabbat following the service also made it too late for multi-generations to participate. The service is beautiful. However, it was not achieving its goal.

In the spirit of this time of “teshuva – inner reflection” and “aleinu – it is incumbent upon us to turn around and experiment to figure out how to strengthen bonds in new and different ways. The Worship Committee decided to do a Pilot Program for four-six months with our Shir Joy Musical Shabbat service beginning tonight. (A pilot program enables us to experiment, evaluate, tweak, re-evaluate, tweak again and make any necessary changes prior to instituting a “regular” program.)

For this Pilot Program, (just as Ted Lasso did things “out of the box”), we are doing things a little differently (this is for the Shir Joy Shabbat only – all of our other Shabbat services will be followed by a regular Oneg Shabbat):

  • We’ll join together at 5:15 pm for a savory PRE-NEG (which could include):
    • Cheese and crackers
    • Vegetables and hummus
    • Savory snacks for all ages
    • Wine and cold drinks
  • Following the 6:00 PM service, we’ll share challah, juice and kiddush wine (no regular “Oneg”).
    • We encourage friends to join together for dinner afterwards to celebrate Shabbat in a relaxed manner:
      • Pot-luck at one of your homes
      • Bring your own picnic and sit together in the TBS Living Room
      • Make a reservation at a restaurant and invite whomever is able, to join – even those you are meeting for the first time
      • Be creative!
      • The goal is to “break bread” and eat a Shabbat meal together with friends both old and new.

We’ll experiment with this for a few months and then evaluate if it needs to be “tweaked.”  Periodically, we’ll send out a questionnaire to those who have participated to seek input.

The goal is to discover new ways to engage our TBS community and those who may consider joining! We encourage you to join us for our Shir Joy Shabbat Preneg and Shir Joy Shabbat tonight.

We wish all of you G’mar Chatimah Tovah – May You Be Inscribed in the Book of Life!

Shana Tovah and Shabbat Shalom!



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