Happy 5777! As the New Year begins, we say good-bye to the past and turn our thoughts to the future. What is in store for Congregation Ahavas Israel for the upcoming year? Let’s see what is on the Presidential Plate. Hopefully, it will help inform you as to what you can do this year.

First, some background:

Ahavas sent me to SULAM for Presidents, which is a development program for upcoming and current synagogue Presidents within the USCJ. There were 30 of us. Although I had been on the Board for some time, this was an eye-opener for me. I found that most shuls were making incremental changes over time to keep up with current practices and always looking for ways to improve. They had annual reviews of the Rabbi and the Board. There was accountability. There were "consent agendas" that saved Board time, and left time for development activities and policy establishment. There was intentional planning for the future and not just letting it happen. There were goals for the Rabbi, the President, the Board, and committees/teams. These synagogues are successful and growing.

So why isn’t Ahavas doing this? In my time on the Board I have noticed that we spend a lot of time handling normal business. We hear reports, we get requests, and we take care of the business at hand. Much of it is urgent, but at a high level not all that important to our future. If you’re familiar with the four quadrants of Stephen Covey’s "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" (below), we’ve been focusing on "Quadrant 1" activity. We need to spend more time in Quadrant 2, which is important, but not immediately urgent.





Quadrant 1

Quadrant 2



Pressing Problems

Deadline driven



Burn out

Crisis management

Always putting out fires



capability improvement

Relationship building

Recognizing new opportunities









Few crises

Not Important

Quadrant 3

Quadrant 4



Some calls

Some mail

Some reports

Some meetings

Popular activities


Short-term focus

Crisis management

See goals/plans as worthless

Shallow or broken relationships

Feel out of control


Trivia, busy work

Some email

Personal social media

Time wasters

Pleasant activities


Dependent on others or institutions for basics


Not productive

Quadrant 2 is where strategic planning happens. Ahavas has had strategic plans in the past, but no program to review it, keep us on track, and renew the strategic plan after the old one has ended.

So what’s new at Ahavas? We have already gone to a consent agenda where the Minutes and committee reports are bundled, sent out beforehand for review, and approved as a group, and we’ve started Board development activities. We’re using the USCJ guidelines to establish an annual review process for the Rabbi and the Board. These reviews shall be meaningful and respectful with mutually agreed upon goals.

We will also be laser-focusing on Membership and Fundraising. These two areas are critical to our growth and future success. We need communication and connection to our members, and a plan on what to do when members and friends have life happen to them, are sick or hospitalized, or need help in some way. We need to have activities that bind us together as a community where families with children, millennials, inter-marrieds, seniors, seekers and friends all have a place in our tent and are welcome with open arms. Our fundraisers need a review and refresh. Cadillac of Raffles has been going on for a long time. Maybe we keep it, replace it, or come up with a second FUNraiser. Personally, I think a murder mystery dinner at shul would be a lot of fun. What are your ideas? Where would you like to help out? Give us a call. 616-283-6339 (not during work hours, please), or email

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your ideas.

As I write this, I am listening to Rabbi Shefa Gold’s chant Ma nora hamakom hazeh

How Awesome Is This Place. This is the house of G-d, the gate to heaven. Yes, this is Congregation Ahavas Israel.

Blessings to you this New Year

Paula Bojsen


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