What to do with a Scholar in Residence

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Rabbi Einhorn’s SynaBlog is a new innovative blog that shares tips, tactics, strategies and best practices that enable Shul growth and promote Shul vitality.

Even the most exciting Rabbis need to take a step back and simply make way for another voice to be heard. That is important on many levels. First of all, speaking way too much kills the gravitas of the Rabbi’s presentation. Alternatively, when the Rabbi allows his pulpit to be shared every so often it reflects a certain comfortability and security within his community. The challenge now becomes how does your synagogue maximize the effectiveness of a Scholar-in-Residence weekend?

Bringing in a top rate speaker/scholar for Shabbos can get exceptionally pricey. If the money is going to be spent and / or raised you have to make sure your community gets the best bang for their buck. Allow me to share with some Scholar-in-Residence “Do’s” and “Don’ts”:

Do – Do have your scholar address subject material that you don’t normally cover. If you have a series on the “50 Greatest Chassidic Rebbes”, the last thing that you should do when bringing in a speaker is have him or her cover Rabbis 51-60. Allow your scholar to share insights from their particular world.

Don’t – Don’t limit your scholar to simply some speeches. There is so much more to a Shabbos that it would be a shame not to widen the circle. Run an oneg or a melava malka. Set up a panel with your Rabbi and your Scholar during Kiddush. Do a shul dinner and have him or her run a Q and A session. There is so much more than just a couple of canned speeches.

Do – Prime your congregation for the upcoming scholar. Effectively bringing in a Scholar-in-Residence means that you are going to educate the community on who is coming, what they specialize in, and why they ought to come the Shabbos that he or she is there.

Don’t – Don’t be skimpy on the accommodations and honorarium for your Scholar-in-Residence. Treating your all-star guest without your best foot forward makes the speaker feel as if he or she is only marginally wanted and appreciated in the community that they are coming to. If you roll out the red carpet you will get a red carpet worthy presentation. Do this right!

There is so much more to say on this subject but I would say that the bottom line is that think outside the box with your Scholar-in-Residence. Don’t just bring somebody in for the sake of bringing somebody in.

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Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is a Musmach of Yeshiva University. He has served as the founder of WINGS a Synagogue Consulting group. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Rabbi Einhorn was the Rabbi of Manhattan’s West Side Institutional Synagogue where he helped grow the membership by 70% over 4 years. Currently, he is the Rav and Dean of Yeshivat Yavneh.