There are elements of each of Rabbi Sid’s four propositions by which The Tribe is founded, driven, and continually serves its Millennial community in Greater Miami. The Tribe embodies Wisdom/Chochmah both through rabbinically led text interpretation and by DIY Judaism, the latter of which serves to empower our volunteers with the notion that they too are Jewish leaders.
One of our largest draws each year is our High Holiday Experience, which is held annually at the Rubell Family Collection, an art gallery in Miami’s hip Wynwood Arts District. Both Erev Rosh Hashanah, followed by a catered wine & cheese, and Erev Yom Kippur, bring in nearly 200 individuals. The event is free thanks to a grant from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. While The Tribe is a mix of both Tribal and Covenantal Jews, this gathering appeals to our post-tribal, covenantal contingency, especially since the Judaism served is often in relation to other spiritual & wisdom traditions. In addition to traditional tefilah melodies and quotes from the Jewish wisdom masters, our service is integrated with quotes in our machzor, created by Rabbi Amy Morrison, from the Buddha, Rumi, Lao Tzu, Gandhi, Native American wisdom, Bob Marley, Yoko Ono, William S Burroughs, Abraham Lincoln, and more. Moreover, song leader, Mallie Duboff, will set prayers to popular modern tunes that engage our congregation. This Jewish experience, guided by multiple wisdom traditions and art milieus, keeps Millennial Jews coming back year after year for a truly, soul-fulfilling High Holiday Experience.
On the DIY front, we lead a Tu B’Shevat Seder at our annual Jews in Canoes, a yoga Havdalah (another example of our merging wisdom traditions) and Shabbat on the beach. These DIY experiences engage and empower our lay leaders as we offer various avenues to spiritual wisdom via multiple Jewish holidays.
Social Justice/Tzedek is a huge pillar of The Tribe. In fact, many of our strongest lay leaders have entered The Tribe via tikkun olam initiatives. Unlike other tribal Jewish organizations in Miami that seek to serve only the Jewish community, The Tribe seeks to bring healing and happiness to the disenfranchised youth of Miami. On a monthly basis we are volunteering at the Children’s Home Society, a residential pre-foster placement facility for infants to 12-year olds. Not only do we provide a meaningful experience for Jews identifying as global citizens, but we also integrate Torah into this experience, framing our monthly volunteering on the weekly parsha or a proximate holiday. Our Repairing the World programs ensure that Jewish Millennials have a consistent opportunity to act on their innate Jewish impulse to do good.
The Tribe strives to be a community/kehillah, especially as a means of celebration through our premiere annual nightlife events, Vodka Latke and Yom Ha’aytz Miami. A recent survey of our Tribe regulars indicated that over 65% of respondents felt that their sense of Jewish community was stronger because of their participation with The Tribe. The Tribe resulted in 20% of respondents’ creating at least 7 relationships (friend, romantic, business, etc.), over 40% created 4+ relationships, and over 85% created at least 2 relationships!
Before The Tribe was established in 2007, our founders at Temple Beth Sholom, a Reform synagogue in Miami Beach, identified that people were leaving for college and not returning to synagogue life until they wanted to give their kids a Jewish education. That’s as much as 20 years without synagogue affiliation! To ensure Jewish continuity, both for means of engagement and for community & leadership building, The Tribe was established.
With the establishment of an active board, The Tribe has strived towards a model of a synagogue-community, empowering our lay-leaders to plan our initiatives. This is exemplified in our volunteers’ leading the Jewish education component of our Repairing the World programs, helping to envision, plan, and advertise our large celebratory events, and even in the creation and participation of our DIY Jewish experiences. Upon someone expressing interest in The Tribe, the director extends an offer to go out to lunch or coffee so that he may listen to and empower these new Tribesters, subsequently slotting them into empowering roles within our organization, if in fact they wish to go beyond being a mere consumer. That said, the majority of Tribesters at the end of the day are consumers, with much of the work ultimately falling on The Tribe’s Director. As a result, The Tribe could best be described as straddling both the designs of a synagogue-center and synagogue-community, despite not being a synagogue at all.
The key to The Tribe’s success has been its distinct branding and the fact that is functions independently from Temple Beth Sholom, which seeded it. With a separate director and board, it functions to empower and coalesce Jewish young professionals. There is no overt push to have our participants join Temple Beth Sholom. Of course we do hope that our participants will ultimately become not only members of a synagogue later in life, but also take lay leadership roles as a result of doing just that with The Tribe.
The Tribe, in its early years, was sustained by a large grant from a foundation in the South. While this helped to provide top notch programs at a vastly reduced rate, we ultimately fell victim to this give-it-to-me-for-basically-free, Birthright mentality. The last several years have been transitioning to what we think is a healthier business model. We have sought to return the ownership of The Tribe to its participants through the establishment of our Chai Tribester membership initiative. Members, seeing the value of belonging to The Tribe both for gaining access to complimentary & member only events, and for the sake of belonging as members to our community, have slowly but surely been joining at increased rates each year since our inception of the initiative 3 years ago.
We hope to continue growing our Chai Tribester membership base as people increasingly realize the value and sense of purpose that comes with membership, and the meeting of their communal, social justice, and spiritual needs that come with belonging to The Tribe.
Greg Lawrence grew up a Reform Jew in New Jersey and became a Pluralistic, Egalitarian, Reform Jewish Renewal adult. Greg brings a passion for building community, expertise in transpersonal psychology, and experience with various innovative Slingshot organizations to the helm of The Tribe, Shalom Baby, Shalom Family, all initiatives of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.Is this post useful and interesting? Please consider sharing it with your social networks, and leave a comment below telling us your thoughts!