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Temple Beth Sholom’s Small Groups Initiative:
Panim el Panim is an opportunity to deeply connect in a small group with meaningful conversations. Through engaged, active listening & experiential life-learning, we will nourish our souls Face to Face, not face to screen.
When was the last time you had a truly meaningful conversation?
Small Groups as an approach to congregational engagement came out of the Christian megachurch movement. These congregations, many of whom have satellite campuses throughout the U.S., were initially a means of discussing the weekly sermon in community. Through this vehicle, small groups became the cornerstone in their efforts to build authentic communities in which each member is known and supported in their spiritual journey.
In the last decade, Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) congregations have begun to experiment with this small group model to create a greater sense of connection in our own communities, with notable trailblazers being Central Synagogue in New York, The Temple in Atlanta, and Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, among others. These large congregations have found this to be a successful model to engage their congregants in a meaningful way.
In Panim el Panim you will meet new people, forge new relationships both within the group context and, potentially, beyond, while having a safe space to be yourself and share from a place of honesty, curiosity, warmth, and even playfulness. Panim el Panim is not book learning but, rather, life-learning as we open up and learn about ourselves in relationship with others, building character in the process.
Panim el Panim at Temple Beth Sholom falls under the larger Relational Judaism vision of our Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz. Under her leadership we are creating a culture of connection and matterness. In her words, “Temple Beth Sholom is a place of connections and caring, a place to seek wholeness and be our truest selves.” This is our kehila kedosha, our sacred community.
Small groups are an extension of this culture of connection, not only fostering congregants’ connections with one another, but also having the capacity to foster their spirituality and build them as Jewish leaders since these small groups are for and by congregants – each group is led by one or two lay leaders, not a member of our clergy or staff.
Inspired by Martin Buber’s philosophy from I and Thou that when we encounter another we too can encounter God, Rabbi Pomerantz believes that we can all achieve deep, meaningful spiritual connection with ourselves, each other, and God via small groups.
Joining a group is a commitment. Participants commit to attend monthly through May, at which point the group will go on a summer break; there is no commitment beyond that. Many group members choose to recommit to the same group in the fall for the next cycle, but it is not required. Dates will be determined in conjunction with your group leader and other group members. Both current and new members are welcome to join current groups with openings or new groups that will be forming.