The Heart of Gathering

Hey all! It’s been a while – but I wanted to get back into the blogging.

I’ve been reading a great book called “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker. It’s described as “A bold new approach to how we gather that will transform the ways we spend our time together–at work, at home, in our communities, and beyond.” There are a lot of interesting tips – including size (12-15 is a good number), location (shouldn’t be too big), and selectivity (don’t feel bad about saying ‘no’ to the wrong people). But one of the most powerful messages is that before you start gathering, you need a purpose. Why are you having a birthday party? Why are you having a meeting? Why are you inviting people to Shabbat dinner? She also talks about traditions and rituals, and how it’s not that they’re bad — in fact, their structures could be really powerful. But if all they are is a stale structure, and if they don’t start with a purpose, then it’s not fulfilling it’s potential. She also mentions that you need to own the purpose, even it’s somewhat risky — and perhaps transformative gatherings need risk! You need to tell people “this is what we’re here for; do you want to come?”.

This is so true for Heart to Heart, especially when thinking about how to spread these ideas among an Orthodox community. Orthodoxy is known for having really great structures and forms and traditions – like doing Shabbat dinner every week. So we took that powerful form, and applied it to a powerful purpose: how can we include Jews on the outside (which is most of them) into our meaningful Jewish community/experiences/lives? And we often got pusback from the Orthodox community: “you’re ruining our community”, “you’re dividing the community”, “you’re selfish” – which is part of the risky part. But then I’d explain the purpose, that we’re not about doing things on our own, and we’re not even about Shabbat dinners – we’re about finding ways to include more Jews in the Jewish community. And almost always, people got on board. That reminded me how important it is to share the purpose of Heart to Heart gatherings – not about the Shabbat dinners or about the grassroots nature, but about our mission. Check out our “About Us” page – it barely mentions Shabbat dinners, and it all starts with our purpose.

So yes, run a H2H Shabbat dinner – but also read our mission, talk to us about it, think about it, and then let’s figure out how you can build a transformative gathering around it.

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