In my hospital venue, I am an expert. If your labwork looks funky or you look like your adrenals are making you fat and hairy, the request for assistance finds its way to my pager or an appointment is set up for a session in the exam room. Data gets analyzed, key historical and objective information solicited and a plan devised to make things better. Most of my consults come from capable physicians who have done their best to manage what is before them but sometimes the cavalry needs to be called in.
In a parallel fashion, the synagogue has not done well so the president decided an expert opinion might be in order. We can argue whether or not the primary care givers of the synagogue, its officers and Rabbi, have performed due diligence or even tapped the resources or made the assessments that they should, but the outcome has definitely lagged. There is a certain amount of delusion that the officers routinely buy into, much like doctors think that if their diabetics stop eating doughnuts their sugars will become normal. They will become normal if not all that deranged at the start, otherwise more significant intervention is needed, and often something that the referring physician knows must be done but is too timid to proceed. The young personable Rabbi will attract people willing to pay a substantial part of their not so substantial early in career income to bolster the census of young people and the congregation’s future. Negatory on that one. If we develop a mentoring system for the young members they will be socialized into the shul’s way. The leaders never quite recognized that sometimes the shul has to adapt to their way. We don’t need to deal with the elephants in the room, whether the literal elephant of morbid obesity that occupies my exam rooms or the figurative element of learned women who are unwilling to occupy our sanctuary and take care to teach their offspring why. Delusions abound.
My congregation has had consultants with valid recommendations before. There was even an implementation committee that did not implement or even understand that the heart and soul of the recommendations involved a redirection of governance and committee structure. They have had focus groups. This begot BINGO which was carefully planned and seems to be serving its intended purpose. Little else is as carefully planned and fulfills its purpose. There were brainstorming evenings that went nowhere. There were focus groups attended by people on the A-list recommending more of the same. We have a desire for membership but a series of membership VP reports that read like an accounting exercise. They don’t even have an accurate census of who the members are.
Where this consultation seems to differ from a medical or legal consultation may be in who gets examined. What strikes me as most bizarre about the proposal, sent to me by a Board member which I no longer am, was that the consultant focuses on the Board which is increasingly incestuous and this time largely hand-picked by the president rather than constructed objectively by the Nominating Committee that functioned more as a telephone squad to convey invitations. I never examine the referring physician, only the product of the decisions made by that physician. I never ask the physician to change anything. I assume the authority for those changes. This type of examination should not involve the Board who really needs to take responsibility for the disappointing outcome. Historical information is better solicited from people who used to be there but no longer are, whether the departure had been from the shul’s membership roster, declining presence in the sanctuary or not renewing participation on a committee. There is a certain amount of objective information that a consultant would be expected to review, provided by the officers and the board and rabbi but interpreted or placed into context by the consultant. This could include financial data and attendance data or the contents of the Shabbat bulletins three years ago compared to last year or contents of the publications that our congregation disseminates to its membership and to the wider community.
Reading the proposal for spending $3G’s on this, it can be done a lot more economically by having the officers understand the great sage Reb Pogo who met the enemy and he is us.