The Narrative of Mishkan’s Strategic Plan “Reveal”

One of the more chuckle-worthy jokes in the 2018 Purim Spiel, just a few weeks after our Strategic Plan Reveal, was, “Big reveal? Rabbi Lizzi reveals more during services nursing Judah Lev!”

Haha, point taken. We did a big drumroll, and got you all excited that we were going to lift the curtain on some massive shift in course in the roll-out of our strategic plan that we’ve been working on for a year. Sixty people put on their puffy coats and boots and showed up at the reveal expecting to have their freaking minds blown, and… Big news! We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing!! (With some important tweaks, clarity and focus!)

Some of you sounded disappointed, like you were hoping for something more dramatic. A juice bar, maybe, or a show on the Oprah Women’s Network… or maybe just something that feels as revolutionary in 2018 as Mishkan felt when we held our first service back in 2011.

So here’s my news: you’re STILL part of something revolutionary… but every revolution needs evolution in order to stay relevant, to keep meeting the needs of the people at its core, which change over time.  We never want to rest on our laurels, but we also don’t want to throw into chaos and upheaval everything we’ve built already. With a strong foundation to work from, what we heard from you in the dozens of hours of focus groups, hundreds of survey answers, and dozens more hours of synthesis with our consultants, helped us hone in on our strengths, identify our growth areas, and commit to getting better across the board.

Here’s what you told us:

You’re getting a lot out of Mishkan.

For the vast majority of people, Mishkan is working really well, with a few notes, which we’ll share below.  Most people across focus groups and surveys felt that Mishkan is their spiritual home, where they come for inspired Jewish practice and community. We even convened a focus group of people who had left Mishkan for different reasons, and even most of them said something like, “Mishkan’s great– I just moved/had kids/had extenuating circumstances/was looking for something else.” This let us know that there’s a lot we’re doing right, which we want to keep doing, and honing.

You want more deep relationships of connectivity and purpose.

People want to contribute their talent and time in meaningful ways, to build friendships and relationships of impact and purpose– to feel they belong. The most involved volunteers and leaders expressed a desire to be appreciated for their contributions, at the same time as they expressed that giving of themselves is incredibly satisfying. This let us know that as much of our staff time that is spent creating events, programs, classes, holiday celebrations, and services, as much needs to be spent cultivating meaningful, impactful horizontal relationships between people.

You want to know that Mishkan is here for the long haul.

We’re not a flash in the pan, a momentary fad. If you’re going to invest in us– emotionally, financially, spiritually, you want to know that this inspiration is going to be here for you down the road. You want to know that our rabbis, classes, services, life-cycle events and support, and overall vibe, will be here to support and inspire you (and your kids!) for decades to come. This let us know that financial sustainability needs to be a focus moving forward.

You want us to be at the leading edge.

Not just for participants and “users,” but for the way we run our organization, supporting staff and leadership as well. Burn-out is common in the Jewish and non-profit sector, and in order for our rabbis and staff to best serve you, they need to be at their best, professionally and personally. That let us know we need to support our staff in every way we can.

With those major take-aways from you, our community, our strategic planning team (comprised of the Board, staff, and a handful of Mishkanites), came up with the following mission and vision, and created the priorities that will guide our organization over the next 5 years. Our hope is that in 5 years we’ll look at our organization and be impressed and proud, seeing the depth of our impact on the hearts of involved Mishkanites, the breadth of that impact across Chicago, contributing to a renaissance of the wider Jewish landscape in America. Here is the gist of the strategic plan:

We reimagine and breathe new life into Judaism.
We create radically inclusive spaces for Jewish spiritual practice and community, engaging, educating, and empowering people across the spectrum of identity, background, age and belief, leading people toward more purposeful, more connected, and more inspired lives.


Our strategic priority areas are:
  • The Mishkan Experience.  We will continue to show the world what’s possible for inspired, down-to-earth, serious Jewish spiritual practice through maintaining the sense of intimacy, playfulness, inclusivity, and serious Jewish content that has built Mishkan thus far, and creating a design approach that enables us to do more programs and serve more people while preserving our commitment to extremely high quality in these areas.
  • Community of Mutuality. Building a Community of Mutuality means ensuring that Mishkan is a committed, relational community in which people feel connected to one another, inspired to reinvest their energy back into the community, and put it in the service of building a more loving world.
  • Developing and Empowering Lay Leadership. Growing great Jewish lay leaders and growing the number of people we serve and the depth of their experience, are all the same project. A great and growing community needs great lay leadership, and we are committed to identifying and empowering them.
  • Financial Sustainability. We aim to achieve the financial sustainability that will provide our organization with the necessary stability to plan for the future, to foster continued innovation, and to propel strategic growth for our impact.
  • Organizational Excellence. We will maintain and develop the energy, enthusiasm, and professional skills of our talented staff, ensuring the organizational stability that is a critical part of sustaining our work in the long term. Mishkan will be an awesome place to work and work with.

Truthfully I’m glad that we didn’t suddenly discover some massive secret agenda that the community has been waiting to spring on us so that we’d have to hire a whole new staff and start doing work that wouldn’t be in my wheelhouse of expertise. (What can I say? I love being a rabbi, leading services, and helping people connect with their best selves through Jewish prayer and learning. If you decided you wanted Mishkan to be primarily a Jewish bodybuilding organization, or an arts and crafts hub, or car racing organization, I’d be out of a job.)

But you spoke, and we listened. And so this organization that has been mission-driven all along has honed in even more clearly on our mission–  to reimagine and breathe new life into Judaism. These priorities will help us do just that, for an ever-growing number of people, in Chicago and beyond. And as simple as that may sound, we think that’s pretty revolutionary.

You’ve been part of the revolution so far, and we want you to continue to be. At the Reveal back in February, people signed up to help out with the implementation of different priority areas.  If you’d like to work on one of the Strategic Priority areas above, let us know and we’ll be in touch!

Many blessings and here’s to transforming the world, one heart at a time.