This past Monday evening, representatives from several cities around the Midwest convened in Cleveland Ohio for the annual MALL (Midwest Agudah Lay Leadership) conference. For ten years now, the Agudah of Illinois has facilitated the MALL group to maintain communication amongst the cities as they address the various challenges they faced and share ideas and projects that have seen success. Besides for the relationships and support, many conferences have resulted in tangible takeaways including a new Agudah office in one city, and multiple service organizations opening around the Midwest.
This year’s day and half conference had 23 attendees representing 11 cities and focused on four specific areas: constituent service management, foundation funding, developing new leadership, and small town growth. Presenting attendees included R’ David Kushner of Amudim Community Resources from Philadelphia, PA and R’ Boruch Rothenberg of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit from Detroit, MI. Tuesday morning began with Shacharis and breakfast at the recently expanded Hebrew Academy of Cleveland which was followed by a tour of the nearby Cleveland Chesed Center. Throughout the day, time was dedicated to cities sharing ideas for projects and asking general questions. Conversations were very practical and many participants left the conference eager to share what they had learned. Josh Bennett from Cleveland remarked, “Even though Cleveland was one of the larger communities represented, I can envision multiple projects being launched based on models we hear about from our colleagues all over the Midwest.”
Rabbi Ari Strulowitz, director of operations of Agudath Israel of Illinois, emphasized the need to create a structure of communication throughout the year. “As much as we can accomplish in one day of meetings, the possibilities are endless if the conversation continues beyond this gathering,” said Rabbi Strulowitz. Avi Rubin from Detroit said, “To think about how many tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews were represented in that room and yet to recognize how much of an impact can be made by any individual willing to help is truly empowering.” Over the years, MALL has proven to be a great forum for strengthening Orthodox communal growth and we look forward to seeing what this year’s efforts will yield.