Several years ago, JRC was offered what turned out to be a wonderful gift which came, as gifts sometimes do, wrapped up in a big complicated mess.
Isn’t that often how it goes, not just for us as individuals, but for the Jewish people in general? If it weren’t for the flood, we’d have no rainbow. If it wasn’t for that long walk in the desert, we’d have no promised land. And if it wasn’t for anti-Semitism, maybe we’d have no bagels. Don’t believe me? Read here (but later, after you read this blog post!).
JRC’s new website came about because the company that was hosting our old web site was purchased by the company that was hosting our member database. With that change came an opportunity for us to assess whether we could get everything we needed from the technology that had been thrust upon us. All around, we saw synagogues with beautiful custom websites, and we wanted more. We wanted a website that represented us: our diverse, participatory, sacred, communal, daring, deeply-rooted selves, but in a beautiful display of pixels and characters on the world’s desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
The good news is that we Reconstructionist Jews are good at improvisation. After all, the heart of reconstructionism is the idea that we evolve with the times, considering what from the past we can carry with us into the future and how we can repurpose it to address who we are now. To that end: What could we keep from our technology? How could we pivot to get what we needed? When we asked ourselves “how might we build our dream site?” the answer was obvious: together.
One of our members, Debi Lewis, runs a web design firm. She’d always wanted to lend her expertise to raising up JRC’s online presence, so she jumped at the chance to work on the project. Our executive director, Micky Baer, didn’t require any convincing, and she was ready to roll up her sleeves and get started too. Max Sendor, our communications and marketing manager, was eager to connect all corners of the congregation’s messaging under a modernized look-and-feel. Member volunteers Linda Mathias Kaskel, Sandy Spatz, Becca Sperling, and Len Servedio leapt onboard, conceiving of new ways to organize our content and streamline our processes, and everyone learned how to use the new website software.
In regular Zoom meetings, the team set goals and deadlines. We interviewed clergy and staff members for new bios and for substantive content on ritual, performing arts, and education; members contributed content in areas where they had expertise and deep engagement; we re-envisioned whole sections of the site to reflect the way we think our members and prospective members will look for information. Member and photographer Luke Adams captured images of staff, ritual objects, and our Czech Torah. We chose bold, gorgeous colors to represent the richness of our congregation’s inner life and to highlight the real treasures that abound within: the people, represented in the years of beautiful photographs we’ve collected (like the one in this post!). Though our wonderful, LEED-certified environmentally-conscious building in Evanston is well-represented on the site, the more we looked, the more we saw that it was the people who made up the congregation – so, we realized, it had to be the people who were featured front and center on the new web site.
That messy new world we entered when our old software stopped working? We’re thankful for it. From messes to bright splashes of color, and words written with intention and joy and connection, we’re proud to present this doorway into JRC. Welcome!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.