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Sulam for Strategic Planners

Download an application for the 2015-2016 cohort of Sulam for Strategic Planners here. Learn more about the program with the introductory session, "Planning to Plan."

Sulam for Strategic Planners is an initiative of United Synagogue to strengthen kehillot (congregations). Sulam for Strategic Planners (SSP) guides kehilla leaders through the process of creating a mission and vision for the future, assessing the wants and needs of their community, and developing strategies that best utilize their capacities. SSP works to create strategic plans that help focus the board to get “out of the box” of looking at the next 35 days and design outcomes for the next 3-5 years.

SSP has two programmatic components. The first is a “Learning Community” about strategic planning, in which we offer unique new resources, webinars and training exercises for leaders interested in cultivating strategic thinking and elements of planning in their board culture. Over 250 people from 100 kehillot have participated in webinars. Many participants have worked with their district/regional KRM’s to set up coaching calls.

The second component of SSP is an “Action Community,” which is comprised of kehillot who go through the steps of strategic planning together. Previous cohorts have been taking these strategic planning steps together and have benefited greatly from the training and networking together.  In addition to the resources available to our Learning Community, this group of strategic planning teams will receive in-person training, coaching and assistance to collect and analyze data, then develop and implement a strategic plan. The benefits of being in this cohort will come from high level learning, following a timeline and schedule for action, sharing insights and best practices, getting peer feedback, and supporting one another through this exciting process.

“When you’ve been in a place forever that has its own culture, it’s hard to learn how to think strategically. But you have to or else the kehilla will become stale. We need to carve out a fresh mission statement and act in ways that honor that statement. You have to create time to do that in the midst of everything else.”

– Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun, Congregation Torat El; Oakhurst, NJ

In a rapidly changing world, Sulam for Strategic Planners addresses the most fundamental strategic questions that need to be asked:

Who are we now and who do we seek to be? Who is our customer or member? What do they want? What do we want for them? What are our capacities? What are we good at? What are we known for? What is our next step?

This program is designed for leaders who are ready to begin planning or to begin to explore the benefits and challenges of planning. Designed for teams, SSP includes roles for rabbis and other key staff as well as opportunities for congregational participation.

Hear what the New Jersey Jewish News has to say about Sulam for Strategic Planners. You can read the article here.

The heart of Sulam for Strategic Planners is to provide a road map that takes leaders from vision to action. This is done through key stepping stones. Similar to Sulam for Current Leaders, each step will have a webinar, readings and exercises. Topics include:

    1. Forming a Strategic Planning Committee- Defining Scope of Planning
    2. Situation and SWOT Analysis
    3. Congregational Surveys
    4. Review of Survey Results and Themes
    5. Mission and Vision Statements
    6. Strategic Direction for Task Forces
    7. Priority Setting- Recommendations
    8. Report Adoption and Implementation

While part of an international curriculum, Sulam for Strategic Planners is designed to be customized by local planners or consultants who will bring their own approaches and tool kits. During the planning process, planners are encouraged to update and revise their plans (1.0, 2.0 etc.). These documents will change with increased knowledge, experience and understanding that emerging from the planning process. So too, Sulam for Strategic Planners is a work in process. We will learn from your experiences.

Application for The Sulam for Strategic Planners Cohort 2015-16

United Synagogue is excited to invite applications the next Action Community. In addition to the webinars and resources mentioned above, this “Action Community” will receive in-person trainings, coaching calls and a congregational site visit by a member of the USCJ Sulam Leadership team. The five SSP program components that will support your effort to create and implement a strategic plan for your kehilla are as follows:

  1. Webinars: Eight webinars will cover the main elements of strategic planning. 
  2. SSP Tool Chest: An array of planning tools with exercises and annotated guides for strategic planning committees will be provided to help you create a Kehilla Strategic Action Plan (KSAP). These include Vision Builder and Mission Builder guides, strategic planning survey template, focus group training, Task Force Report template.
  3. Coaching: Teams will receive coaching calls at key milestones.
  4. Peer Learning: SSP is based on peer learning. Peer support conference calls for the entire cohort will help committees address questions at various stages of planning. Participating teams will learn from the questions that others raise, and be inspired by success at each step. SSP will capture and share success stories from the cohort.
  5. Readings on Strategic Planning: Original content articles, web links and a bibliography will be provided.To see a description of the 8 webinar topics, you can visit the SSP Webinar Topics page.

Still have questions? Check out the SSP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s).

For more information about any Sulam Leadership offerings, please contact your Kehilla Relationship Manager, call 212-533-7800 or email us at

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