Your Voice, Our Future

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Thriving Synagogue Learning Tool and Survey FAQ

1. Who developed the Thriving Synagogue Learning Tool (TSLT)?

UJA-Federation of New York contracted with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University (CMJS) to develop TSLT. The Brandeis team is led by Dr. Amy L. Sales, Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director of CMJS. In her 25 years at the University, she has conducted in-depth studies in more than 100 congregations throughout the United States, focusing primarily on how synagogues evolve and change.

2. What are the benefits to our synagogue?

  • A report with the synagogue’s profile of thriving.
  • A data share meeting with synagogue leadership and SYNERGY professionals to understand and discuss the profile of thriving.
  • A means to identify areas that merit appreciation and celebration as well as areas that call for planning and action.
  • Expert coaching in applying results to plans and action.
  • Analyses that show differences in the perceptions of different groups–by age, years of membership, and position (e.g., leaders versus members).

3. What is a “thriving synagogue”?

A thriving synagogue is vital and alive. It is imbued with a sense of purpose, activity and energy. Members and participants feel a commitment to and affection for the congregational community, the synagogue, and the Jewish life and learning it fosters. The Thriving Synagogue Learning Tool (TSLT) measures the extent to which a synagogue is thriving in key areas of congregational life.

4. How is thriving measured?

TSLT has three components: congregation survey, board survey, and synagogue fact sheet.

  • The congregation survey draws a portrait of our synagogue from the point of view of our members. Internal comparisons show how different groups of people view the synagogue. For example, results may compare perceptions of leaders with those of congregants or the views of long-time members with those of newer members.
  • The board survey is concerned with board practices and policies. Questions for board members are embedded in the congregation survey but are seen only by current board members.
  • The synagogue fact sheet asks about Ansche Chesed operations and includes questions about membership, budget, staff, and synagogue practices. It is filled out by one or more leaders in the congregation (e.g., executive director, bookkeeper, head of budget committee, president) who can access the required information.

5. What is not included in the Survey?

The Survey does not evaluate individual staff members or volunteers in our congregation, nor does it measure congregant satisfaction with particular programs.

6. What are the costs to our synagogue?

There is no monetary cost. The only cost is the time and effort needed to encourage survey participation.

7. How much time does the Survey take?

Members of the congregation will need about 15 minutes to fill out the survey. This is best done in one sitting. Board members will need an additional 10 minutes to complete the board survey.

8. Will my responses remain anonymous?

Your responses are completely anonymous. To preserve the confidentiality of people’s responses, we do not ask for anyone’s email address when you complete the survey. Therefore, it is not possible to know who has or has not completed the survey at any given time.

9. Who will have access to our data?

  • Individual survey data: Survey responses are anonymous. They are treated as confidential and stored on secure servers maintained by Brandeis University. Access to these files is restricted to members of the CMJS research team. Only aggregated data will be used to create the profile of thriving for your synagogue. The synagogue will not have access to individual level data. If data files are shared with UJA-Federation, these files will be scrubbed so that individuals cannot be identified.
  • Synagogue data: Synagogue data will be presented to synagogue leadership for interpretation and discussion. UJA-Federation will receive a copy of all reports developed for the synagogue under this project. In public reports on TSLT findings, CMJS will not cite the name of any synagogue unless explicit permission is received from responsible parties at the synagogue. The synagogue is free to share its own findings as it chooses.

10. Who is supposed to fill out the survey?

The survey is for all adult members of the congregation, aged 18 years and older. If, for example, there are 3 adults residing in one home, all 3 adults should fill out the survey.

11. How important is it for me to fill out the survey?

It is vital to the results of the survey that we get maximum participation. In order for us to acquire the information we need about Ansche Chesed, everyone who can should fill out the survey. Every congregant counts!

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