Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Integrating Newcomers

Here at MHSF we love welcoming newcomers into our mix of community events. At least once a week, sometimes two or three times, we get a random email from someone who has heard about MH from a friend, a cousin, coworker, or some other random person in their life. Once we get this email contact from them, we are quick to write back and let them know in a short paragraph what we do, what we are about, and how they can get connected and be involved. We will send them a link to our monthly calendar, forwarded them our monthly email, and add them to our email list.

When someone shows up to an activity or program where they (clearly) do not know anyone, or it is their first time over to our house, we do everything we can to make them feel welcomed and comfortable. Engaging them in their personal story, where they are from, what they do, how they heard about MH, why they wanted to check it out, what sort of involvement they have had in the past with their Jewish community, where they went to college, what sort of traveling they have done, these are all some of the general questions we like to ask people if it our first time meeting them. Often before we get to the third or fourth questions, some sort of connection is made in which we can relate our lives and or experiences to one another. Also, people are often very interested in knowing more about MH, how it started, what specifically we do, how we all got involved, etc. It's important to feel out the person, see if they come across as introverted or extroverted, as some people are very comfortable talking about themselves, and others keep their self descriptions short and sweet. I like to think of it as being comfortably curious when we meet new people, be curious about them, but also help them feel comfortable. Moreover, if there are people at the events who are shmoozers and enjoy meeting new people, it is great to introduce the new person to one of these people, knowing we don't have to feel like it is up to us to entertain the person throughout the remainder of the event. More like, we welcome them in for the first 10 or 15 minutes until they look a bit more at ease, and then we can introduce them to some of the other people in attendance. More times than not, especially when we have Shabbat, we ask people go around and introduce themselves to the group, as an informal hello of sorts, although it can feel a little awkward, it is important to do this.

Also, if we have made a good connection with someone after they have come to an event for the first time, one of us will send them a follow up email, a sort of "thank you" email for them coming by and taking some time to meet new people and getting to know their Jewish community a little better. This personalized touch has huge dividends, and makes the person receiving the email feel very valued, and not so much like a random person who just showed up one evening. Lastly, this small effort on our end will more than likely encourage the person to want to return to future events, or at least spread the word to their friends about our house, how inviting the residents are that live there, and how friendly the other attendees were. Word of mouth after positive experiences is the best way our MH SF community will continue to nurture itself.

Danny in SF

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