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Temple Beth El of Boca Raton launched a multi-generational members-only interest group program in late 2020 to connect congregants with one another.
While Beth El Circles started with six groups, it is now offering more than 27 while the program is still growing.
The idea for the program was already in the planning stages long before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Elinor Josephson, the synagogue’s director of engagement and programming, said, “There had been an ongoing conversation at Temple Beth El as to what truly engages and connects members.”
“With the onset of the pandemic, we knew we wanted another avenue for members to connect,” Josephson said. “Beth El Circles was the perfect vehicle for both new and existing members to meet and form new friendships and connections with the temple.”
Ann Lois Ballon, left, and Suzanne Dropkin make rugelach during Temple Beth El of Boca Raton’s Cooks’ Corner meeting. The group is part of Beth El Circles. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Sun Sentinel)
Members of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton’s Cooks’ Corner Circle make rugelach. The group is part of Beth El Circles. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Sun Sentinel)
Josephson said, “We certainly believe in this program as a great way for all members to connect and form bonds with each other and the temple.”
“Temple Beth El is a large congregation that prides itself on a hamish feeling,” she continued. “Beth El Circles is one of the ways that makes the temple feel like a family.”
Circles groups include Art and Artisans, Beach Lovers, Canyon Connection, Circle of Life, Cooks’ Corner, DIY Decorating, Entrepreneurs, Exercise Enthusiasts, Fiber Arts, Families of Children/Adults with Special Needs, Grape Expectations, Israel, LGBTQ+, Ma’agal Ha-Ivrit, Mah Jongg, Movie Time, Peloton Passion, Photography, Runners, Singles, Single Parenting, Tech Grandparents, Technology – Today and Tomorrow, Games, and Walking, and more in the works.
Julie Guzy, the synagogue’s engagement and programming coordinator, said regarding the program, “The connections to temple and friendships being formed feeds my soul.”
Both Josephson and Guzy feel that the Fiber Arts Circle along with some other members became “craftivists” by yarn bombing trees at the synagogue’s Schaefer and Beck Family campuses in honor of Pride month as part of a national project called #SpreadLove.
Josephson and Guzy also mentioned Circle of Life, which connects some of the older and more vulnerable members with others.
“Participants in this Circle range in age from 10 to 100 years old,” Josephson said. “This Circle has made a significant positive impact on both the recipients and the callers. Several of our circles have connected members of the temple who have been marginally connected previously.”
Through the Circle of Life group, synagogue members Joanne and Shawn McDougall’s son Max, 14, and daughter Lucy, 10, have forged bonds with their matches, seniors Elaine Erenstein and Brian Sindel.
“Having Elaine in my life makes me feel good because she tells me about her family and important stuff happening in her life,” Lucy said in a news release. “She gives me good book recommendations. We talk about sports we’ve both done. I think Elaine likes talking with me too because she sounds happy when I call her.”
Erenstein said in the news release, “This relationship reinforces my philosophy of keeping in touch with young people and keeping current.”
“It’s time for people of all generations to be in touch with each other,” she continued.
Max said in the release, “When I talk with Mr. Sindel, I share my day or week with him.”
“He sounds enthusiastic when I call him or he calls me,” he continued. “Mr. Sindel has told me about his college experience, career, his family and some childhood memories.”
Sindel noted in the release, “Max is a great kid and I really enjoy talking with him.”