Phoenix is a massive metropolis, big and beige. Summers are hot and neighbors are cold. It’s easy to feel lost in such a place, and to feel lonely. In a desert such as ours, we need a place where we matter to each other. We need a place of culture, of study, and of spirit. We need help to live Jewishly and to nurture Jewish families. We need Temple Emanuel. Temple Emanuel is an oasis in the desert that is Phoenix.
Temple Emanuel is a welcoming oasis for all who embrace Jewish values and want to nourish their lives with wisdom, justice, and lovingkindness. We are connecting our Jewish community and building a better world together.
That’s our new Mission Statement, an expression of who we are and why we exist.
For me, an oasis is the perfect image for Temple Emanuel. We’re surrounded by literal desert but, more than this, by the sprawl of the city in which we live. Life here can be dry. We can feel unnoticed, uncared for, and listless.
I believe that Temple Emanuel is – and can be – an antidote to the shallowness of contemporary urban life. This community nourishes us in many ways. Through prayer (avodah), learning (Torah), and social action (g’milut chasadim), it is a vehicle through which we can live our best lives. It can harness our energies toward raising the next generation and building a better world.
Even so, two simple sentences don’t give a thriving and complex community ample direction. We therefore crafted nine more, each of which highlights a key aspect of our unique Jewish community: Welcoming, Judaism, Culture, Learning, Spirituality, Education, Connection, Justice, and Israel. These are the ways that Temple Emanuel of Tempe has been committed to building and sustaining a vibrant and inclusive Reform Jewish Community since 1976:
- Connecting and welcoming Jews and members of Jewish families of all backgrounds, including age, abilities, sexual and gender orientation, and levels of observance. We embrace interfaith families and all who wish to participate in Jewish life.
- Connecting individuals and families to God, and to Jewish values, culture, heritage, and lifecycle events.
- Connecting Jews through study and the Hebrew language to the wisdom of Torah and our traditions as ways to advance our Jewish lives.
- Connecting ourselves to the richness and depth of Jewish spiritual and ritual experience.
- Connecting our children through positive educational and social experiences, enabling them to discover their own unique version of Jewish life and contribute to society in meaningful ways.
- Connecting adults of all ages to the Temple Emanuel community by providing creative and innovative learning, worship, music, and social experiences.
- Connecting to the larger community and world around us by pursuing social action and working for social justice.
- Connecting to Israel by encouraging an active and respectful dialogue as part of our commitment to the people, land, and State of Israel.
These statements attempt to describe the important functions of our community. As you can see, they are all about people.
We’ve already begun operationalizing each of these statements. The Board brainstormed a set of actions designed to help us to be better at each. These, in turn, have been prioritized and assigned to staff members and lay leaders. A timeline has been created, and they’ve informed our current budget process. We are getting to work.
Our Mission Statement concludes by expressing how it should feel to be part of Temple Emanuel:
We pride ourselves on being a warm, comfortable home, always here to provide social and spiritual well-being for all who walk through our doors.
Our Mission Statement was created by a stellar team of folks who devoted hours of time and kilowatts of brainpower to articulating something that suits us and will inspire us. Led by Judy Meservey, the group was comprised of Temple President Chuck Gealer, Laurel Ginsburg, Arnold Bedak, Susan Charney-Moore, Matthew Stoloff, Jay Scherotter, and myself. We pondered each word, worked and re-worked each phrase. Each deserves our thanks; this Mission Statement is truly a labor of love. I’m proud of our work together, and of what we created.
In the next newsletter, I’ll discuss our second new document: Temple Emanuel’s new Vision Statement.