Friday, February 11, 2011

AKSE Academy Review

It went well, or at least was well received by those in attendance.  I think the logistics went more smoothly than last year, the subjects maybe a little less engaging, and we were one class short.  Those are the p'shat, the straightforward observations.  Rabbi Einhorn, in his WINGS blog, the OU synagogue development feature, took a more expansive view of events.

He divides events into three components: purpose, execution, and legacy or what I think would be better termed future opportunities that the event creates.  The execution went reasonably well though with many rough spots along the way.  As the person responsible for the core of the event, the classes themselves, I may have set too many restrictions on who may present.  Timing and publicity could have been smoother and more expert.  These components of process are also adaptable to the future.

As the originator of the event, I need to take a more critical look at its purpose and how well the purpose was fulfilled.  Originally the Education Committee wanted to replace the shabbat guest which created a fair amount of discord, financial risk and less than enthusiastic feedback with something easier to do that did not require a lot of investment.  If the speaker can give three talks in three sessions over a shabbat, I can arrange eight talks in two sessions over an evening.  We may not have national renown but AKSE's own people at least have internal name recognition.  A more subtle though elusive motivation lurks beneath this.  The Ghost of AKSE past infuses itself into much of the mindset, making decisions almost habitual.  From the 125th Anniversary preparations to the recycling of the same old predictable composition of the Nominating and Cantor evaluation committees, there is a tenacious effort to conserve what once went better to the neglect of new opportunities ahead and real adaptation to what exists now.  I viewed AKSE Academy as the transition point.  There would be discussions of contemporary challenges of Judaism given by people who had real expertise.  Last year I tapped into the familiar, this year my invitations went to a tier of individuals who were not local fixtures.  That talent which may not seem obvious comprises the uniqueness that AKSE brings to the local community.  In a local Jewish world where excellence and effort beyond threshold often seems elusive and undervalued, AKSE Academy stands out for two hours a year plus prep time.

Where I think we fell farthest from Rabbi Einhorn's recommendations was in linkage of this event to other events for the synagogue which also should carry the theme of excellence amid a more pervasive pedestrian Jewish experience.  This may be a very difficult thing to do anywhere and perhaps even expose AKSE's Achilles Heel where committees are more autonomous than they should be with little intersection of ways in which one group can enhance another or expertise in one area such as food or publicity becomes a transferable component that serves the larger operation.  That is where leadership and perspective separate from management of tasks at hand.  AKSE does pretty well at the execution end, not as well at generating creativity or moving its different components into different configurations by different people.

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