Kesher Isaiah: Community Organizing at Temple Isaiah
Kesher Isaiah is a program being launched at Temple Isaiah in the interest of creating a stronger community. By using a “listening campaign” based on the principles of congregation-based community organizing, Kesher Isaiah will hold a series of small group community conversations in three phases over the next two years.
Phase 1: Honoring Our Past
In the fall of 2010, Temple Isaiah’s longest-standing members (those who have been members for 25 years or longer) were invited to participate in a series of conversations about their experience of temple life. In community conversations, we listened to stories of personal involvement at temple. In so doing, we created a narrative of our past as we look to the 60th anniversary of Temple Isaiah in 2012. The stories of how they built and shaped this community and about its impact on their lives were extraordinary. There is much to be learned by examining our past: where did we come from? how have we grown? what has contributed to the success of this congregation? In the interest of sharing what was learned, we invite you to view the video, Honoring Our Past, that was produced as a result of Phase 1.
Phase 2: Understanding Our Present
In this phase we will engage the entire congregation in community conversations to find out what the current reality is for members. What keeps us up at night? What is on our minds and in our hearts? In this phase we will discover what our shared concerns and values are. As in Phase 1, the learning from this phase will be shared at a community-wide event.
Phase 3: Shaping Our Future
We will use community conversations to determine what we envision as the future of Temple Isaiah—What do we want to work on together? Who do we want to be as a community? Once we have created deeper relationships among ourselves, we will move toward involvement with others in the broader community.
Each phase will impact and shape the next and as a Temple community we are very excited about the possibilities! Community Organizing offers us the opportunity to grow more united as a congregation as we learn about who we are and who we want to become. Program announcements can be found in the News and Events section of the website.
Community Organizing - Kesher Isaiah FAQ
What is Kesher Isaiah?
It is a major initiative to build stronger relationships across age and interest groups at Temple Isaiah. Relationships will be built through direct and sustained interaction. The purpose is to create a more united community, one that is in touch with the needs, hopes and desires of its congregants. Once our congregation is strong and united, we can figure out what we want to achieve together.
What is community organizing?
Community organizing is being used across the country by congregations of all faiths to create fellowship and to identify and address issues of social justice. It helps congregations move beyond working on service projects to achieve lasting and systemic change.
Why do congregations use it?
Congregations may get involved for different reasons: to increase engagement; revitalize temple life; identify and address issues of culture; mobilize the community toward a desired action.
What are community conversations and one-on-ones?
They are the main tools of community organizing where we learn through listening to each others stories. Community conversations are small group discussions of around 10 participants led by community members who are trained in facilitation. One-on-ones are 45 minute conversations between two people. In listening to each other’s stories, we strengthen relationships and learn what people care about—what motivates them and what worries them.
Why is “story-telling” so important to community organizing?
Stories are deeply felt by the teller and engaging for the listener. They reveal hopes, needs and concern. They often reveal issues that are widely shared, but not often discussed, by the broader community
What issues have been addressed by community organizing?
congregational: programs, communications, culture, operations, etc.
social justice: education, environment, homelessness, teen concerns, poverty
How is the work supported?
We are affiliated with IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation) and supported by the URJ’s community organizing initiative, Just Congregations. The Northern California affiliate of the IAF provides us with training and consultation around strategy, planning and education.
How can I get involved?