Belonging for all 473K

There are 473,000 people living in Jewish households in the Bay Area, one of the largest and most diverse Jewish populations in the world. Each one of us is unique and all of us are needed, with our full identifies and best selves, to help each other through hard times, pursue justice together, find meaning in our rich Jewish traditions, and create a better future.

This is Belonging: We are in it together; each of us matters and is essential to the whole.

How We Build Belonging

A Culture of Belonging ensures everyone in a group or organization feels seen, valued, and part of something bigger. It helps us build communities of shared meaning and purpose.

Belonging for a few happens by chance; belonging for many requires intentional design and new habits and norms embedded in the DNA of organizations and groups at every level, from board to staff to volunteers to members to those who feel “outside.”

The Federation’s Culture of Belonging framework, based on the teaching and inspiration of Dr. Sarale Shadmi and Federation board member Varda Rabin, offers a language, principles, and step-by-step guidance to drive this change.

What does this mean for Jewish organizations and groups?

It’s more than welcoming, including, or recruiting, and it’s deeper than adding “feel-good” moments to existing programs. We're talking about changing the way we do everything to prioritize belonging.

The benefits of a Culture of Belonging in our communities are many:

  • Individual wellness, meaning, and connection
  • A more just and equitable Jewish ecosystem that “belongs” to all 473K of us, embracing all identities and backgrounds
  • Organizational health (from retention to increased giving and volunteerism)
  • Accelerated social change and high impact (as belonging fuels collaboration around shared purpose)

This is the lens through which we now look at everything. Everything we do is an opportunity for people to connect to each other. Belonging is now part of the fabric of who we are, not a one-off.

- Moji Javid, Director of Synagogue Engagement, Congregation Rodef Shalom, San Rafael

Applying Culture of Belonging Principles

The Federation offers interactive learning opportunities and customized coaching throughout the year for communal leaders and professionals in the Bay Area to deepen their Culture of Belonging skills, apply them to real challenges they are facing, and build more inclusive Jewish communities. 

Culture of Belonging Kickstart Sessions

Quarterly one-hour introduction to the power of belonging as a framework to transform organizations and communities. Invite your colleagues and lay leaders and come for a taste of Culture of Belonging. Sessions are available at no cost and open to all.

I love this framework. We have different program teams and over time they have taken on the Culture of Belonging. We are thinking about it on the executive level and the program level. This methodology has permeated all of our stakeholder groups.

- Ayelet Krieger, former Associate Executive Director, Urban Adamah, Berkeley

473K: A Belonging Workshop Series

Hundreds of community leaders joined the Federation’s two innovative 473K Belonging Experience conferences, in-person in 2020, and virtually in 2021. Named after the 473,000 individuals living in Bay Area Jewish households, 473K explored what it will take for everyone in our diverse population to feel embraced and empowered within Jewish life.

In 2022, 473K will take form in a series of virtual workshops based on case studies and real-time challenges for anyone who is pushing for change within a Jewish community. Sessions are available at no cost and open to all.

Topics include:

  • Restoring Justice in Jewish Organizations
  • Bridging Divides Within Communities
  • Building Belonging for Better Boards
  • Fundraising in a Belonging Culture
  • Beyond Welcoming: Engagement Through Belonging
  • Gathering with Intention: Events and Meetings

Organizational Change Facilitation

Is your organization ready to tackle its belonging challenges, from member retention to board engagement? Create cultures where people of all identities, races, ethnicities, and abilities can feel at home? Redesign how you engage people now that COVID-19 has changed all the rules and raised the stakes?

Our team is ready to help with customized design processes, coaching, and training (virtual or in-person). Many engagements are offered at no charge, as part of the Federation’s strategic mission to expand belonging through Bay Area Jewish organizations and groups.

Our JCC has been implementing Culture of Belonging approaches for years, especially with local Israelis. But this year — in the middle of this incredibly isolating pandemic — our leadership made the decision to put Culture of Belonging at the “center” of our entire Center. The Federation’s CB team is providing the vision, tools, and partnership to help us look across our complex organization to design more ways for the whole community to call the OFJCC their home.

- Zack Bodner, President & CEO, Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto

 

I am particularly proud of how leaders throughout our community—parents, board, admin—have an understanding that their work is about creating a sense of connection and belonging. More and more families express that they feel invested in the whole school community and not just their own child's experience. Increased giving and volunteerism are two metrics we've seen an increase as a result. There is a real sense of shared endeavor.

- Dr. Dan Glass, Head of School, The Brandeis School of San Francisco

Milestones

  • The Federation’s Culture of Belonging initiatives have inspired awareness, action, and change across our Jewish ecosystem.
  • 100+ Bay Area Jewish organizations participated in Federation Culture of Belonging offerings
  • 600 individuals joined CB workshops, trainings, or 473K Belonging Experience conferences
  • 60+ Jewish organizations participated in Federation-led learning cohorts or communities of practice
  • 9 Jewish day schools participated in a two-year Culture of Belonging cohort
  • 30 Federation professionals were trained in Culture of Belonging methodologies as applied to their work through “CB Lab” cohorts.

Sample Projects

We are working to build a Culture of Belonging in our communities by guiding a shift toward less transactional and more connected, inclusive Jewish organizations. 

  • Facilitating Culture of Belonging planning across every aspect of a large JCC.
  • Trained synagogues leaders to incorporate Culture of Belonging practices to build more inclusive, cohesive groups.
  • Incorporated Culture of Belonging into major legacy institution’s new Strategic Plan.
  • Coached day school parent leaders to help families feel seen and valued and to increase parent volunteerism.

Outcomes

  • In the Federation’s Connecting Families grant cohort supporting small informal groups for families with young children, grantees surveyed participants and found that 81% felt a sense of connection and belonging within the first few months of joining a small group, and 71% felt less isolated.
  • The Federation board—which created peer-led small groups to help board members deepen relationships and trust—reported increases in board participation, discourse, comradery despite differences, and collaboration.
  • Day Schools in our two-year Culture of Belonging cohort are showing initial increases in individual belonging (families feel seen and part of the school), and collective belonging (increased retention of families, more volunteerism, initiative, and giving).

Federation Culture of Belonging Team

Wendy Verba, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Wendy Verba leads the Federation’s Culture of Belonging work, guiding culture change across the Bay Area Jewish landscape and in communities and businesses nationally. Previously, Wendy led grantmaking and innovative approaches to Jewish engagement for youth, families, and young adults as Managing Director of Community Impact at the Federation and served on the Federation’s Leadership Team. She participated in the first M2 Relational Engagement Cohort, was a Wexner Heritage Fellow, and served on the boards of UpStart and the Peninsula JCC. She lives, works, and plays in the Bay Area with her husband and an almost empty nest.

Maia Tchetchik-Sharir, Culture of Belonging Consultant

Maia Tchetchik-Sharir is a leading partner in the Federation's effort to build Cultures of Belonging in Jewish organizations across the Bay Area, which she now does from Ramat Gan, Israel. She is also Head of Client Success for the Varda Institute for Community Building and leads her own organizational consulting practice specializing in leadership development and cultural transformation. Maia holds an MBA, is a certified group facilitator, and a graduate of the “Gvanim” program for Israeli leaders living in the Bay Area. Maia was the dreamer and founder of “Kol Banot,” a community-wide mother/daughter Bat Mitzvah journey. She loves the outdoors, planning new adventures, and just hanging out with her family, friends, and her spoiled dog.

Julie Golde, Culture of Belonging Consultant

Julie Golde is a passionate community builder! After 14 years at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, Julie now serves as a community consultant focusing on research, strategic planning, and the “art and science” of creating a sense of belonging for everyone. Julie has served in a variety of roles at the Federation, her most recent being Senior Director of Community Impact. Julie was the lead professional guiding the pivotal 2018 community study, A Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities. She enjoys tutoring students at her local high school in college essay writing. She loves to hike and practice yoga, as well as practice her mad baking skills.

Jackie Shelton-Miller, Culture of Belonging Consultant

Jackie is a non-profit consultant and community leader who loves creating deep connections with and between others. She is the founder of a vibrant weekly online women's challah-baking circle, a small-group leader for Congregation Emanu-El’s B’Bayit program, and was a member of the planning team for 473K: A Belonging Experience. Jackie was the exhibition consultant for Lest We Forget, an outdoor photographic display featuring portraits of living Holocaust survivors at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza. She was the exhibition director for Lost Stories, Found Images: Portrait of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam by Annemie Wolff. Jackie serves on the board of Sinai Memorial Chapel, is co-chair of the Parent Association at The Jewish Community High School of the Bay and is a Bay Area Wexner Heritage Alumni National Delegate. Jackie lives in San Francisco with her husband and their children.

Rabbi Josh Weisman, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Rabbi Josh Weisman is the Senior Program Officer leads the Federation’s Community Impact work in the East Bay. Previously, Rabbi Josh served as Senior Jewish Educator at Hillel at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was ordained by the pluralistic Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Boston. Since then, he has served in outreach-oriented rabbinic roles with the Jewish Emergent Network community Kavana and as Co-Founder of the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest. Prior to rabbinical school, he was a relational community organizer, including with congregations, and worked for A Wider Bridge, both in the Bay Area. He was raised in the East Bay and is pleased to be back here with his family.

Eliezah Hoffman, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Eliezah (pronounced Ah-LEE-zah) is the Program Manager for Community Impact at the Jewish Community Federation. In this role, she bolsters both the dynamic Culture of Belonging team as well as the many scholarship programs that enable children, teens, and young adults to have a variety of immersive Jewish experiences. Eliezah completed a dual MA in Hebrew and Judaic Studies/MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management from NYU, studied Jewish text intensively at the Pardes Institute year program in Jerusalem, and participated in three iCenter Jewish education cohorts. Prior to her recent move to Nashville, TN, Eliezah lived in Berkeley and was a lay leader for Congregation Beth Israel. She currently serves on the board at Congregation Sherith Israel. On weekends, she enjoys biking or exploring local parks with her family.

Articles

Breaking the Schmooze Habit (Wendy Verba, Relationships at the Center: Practitioner Research on Relational Engagement, M2 The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education, July 2020, pp. 27–32)
The Relational Revolution Challenge (Wendy Verba and Rachel Gildiner, eJewish Philanthropy, April 2019)
The Power of Belonging: Creating a Culture of Connection in the Bay Area Jewish World (Wendy Verba, eJewish Philanthropy, June 2017)

Videos

Introduction to the Culture of Belonging473K: A Belonging Experience, February 2020 (14:29)
473K: A Belonging Experience, 473K: A Belonging Experience, May 2021 (7:05)
473K: Our Uniqueness473K: A Belonging Experience, May 2021 (1:41)
473K: Finding a Sense of Belonging473K: A Belonging Experience, May 2021 (1:42)
473K: Doing Jewish473K: A Belonging Experience, May 2021 (1:39)

Blog Articles

The Culture of Belonging Comes to Wornick Day School
Counting Connections: The Future of Jewish Engagement 
Building Connection in Disconnecting Times

Tools

Download our Culture of Belonging Toolkit for a DIY guide of core design principles and helpful practices like asset mapping, setting belonging goals, and transforming meetings.

Or access individual tools:

10 Principles
Belonging Goals
Customer to Partner Continuum 
Guide to Asset Mapping
How to Lead Transformative Meetings 
Opening and Closing Rituals 
Culture of Belonging Makeover Guide 

Current Partners

Following are some of the organizations actively engaged with the Federation to build Cultures of Belonging through 473K, grant cohorts, or consulting projects:

Day Schools:

Bais Menachem Yeshiva Day School
Brandeis Marin
The Brandeis School San Francisco
Contra Costa Jewish Day School
Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
Oakland Hebrew Day School
Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School
South Peninsula Hebrew Day School

Additional Partners:

Be’chol Lashon
Camp Tawonga
Jewish Community Relations Council
Jewtina
Urban Adamah
URJ Camp Newman
Wilderness Torah

JCCs:

JCC San Francisco
Osher Marin JCC
Oshman Family JCC
Peninsula JCC
JCC East Bay

Synagogues and Spiritual Communities:

Chabad of Petaluma
Congregation Beth Am (Los Altos)
Congregation Beth El (Berkeley)
Congregation Beth Sholom (San Leandro)
Congregation Emanu-El (SF)
Congregation Ner Shalom (Cotati)
Congregation Rodef Sholom (San Rafael)
Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (SF)
Jewish Gateways (Albany)
The Kitchen (SF)
Or Shalom Jewish Community (SF)
Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo)