Masorti gearing up for growth post-pandemic

After 'amazing work' to keep members engaged during the Covid crisis, movement is hopeful of establishing its fifteenth community in the Child's Hill/Cricklewood area


Masorti Judaism is looking to resume its “growth agenda” as it begins to contemplate life beyond the pandemic.

On Sunday, members of 300 households tuned into Masorti Together, which chief executive Matt Plen said showcased the best of the movement through “a stimulating engagement with Jewish learning, issues of diversity and inclusion, Israeli politics and society”.

It was also fundraising, Masorti needing to generate £160,000 alongside other revenue streams to maintain essential activities and support efforts. Around £90,000 had been raised prior to the event and Mr Plen said it was on track to bring in the shortfall.

Movement staff and volunteers had “done amazing work” to keep its 6,500 members, including children, engaged during the crisis.

The elderly and vulnerable had been provided with iPads. At the other end of the age spectrum, Mr Plen complimented its youth and student organisations, Noam and Marom, on their social and educational programming.

His own children are aged six, 12 and 15 and Noam had been “a real lifeline to them, keeping them connected to friends and also to serious Jewish conversations. We know that this is replicated across the movement.”

As well as facilitating online services, Masorti shuls had offered members advice and support and been “very flexible” on fees in cases of hardship.

But while the crisis response had demonstrated the power of the movement, it was now time to look ahead.

Although all Masorti synagogues have been closed during the current lockdown, the New North London in Finchley is set to resume Covid-compliant physical services on March 20.

The leadership has continued to work with two fledgling communities — Havurah, a group of young North London families; and Ohel Moed, which was established by Noam graduates.

Mr Plen also spoke enthusiastically about a potential fifteenth Masorti community. Volunteers and a student rabbi arranged outdoor festival services at a tennis club for people in the Child’s Hill and Cricklewood area, attracting attendances of around 50. They were now “planning creatively for Pesach”.

Going forward, the national challenge would be “how to better reach out to young adults who are not affiliated to a synagogue”. One method was the establishment of a network of Noam alumni.

Yet Mr Plen acknowledged that the digital footfall from lockdown activities — 16,000 people at 600 events —demonstrated the appetite for online provision.

“Shul services are still the core of our work — and anecdotally, people are desperate to get back. But we have to work out how we keep the best of our innovations while going back to face-to-face activities.

“It’s an opportunity to go back to our roots. We want to be open minded. Like everyone else in the Jewish world, we don’t know what the future looks like.”

There was certainly pent-up demand for in-person activities among the young. Mr Plen cited the example of the response to a “save the date” note for Noam summer camps.

“We normally have to make an effort to sell them,” he explained. “This time we were overrun with replies. We are now concerned we may not be able to meet the demand.”

Masorti has also recently received £87,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund for a three-year project promoting LGBT+ inclusion, in partnership with Keshet UK.

The idea was to help shuls put plans in place “to become more actively inclusive”, Mr Plen added.

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