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June 2021 Message

Where We Are on June 1, 2021
As I mentioned in my HEArtbeat message a couple of weeks ago, we have initiated an interview process with Rabbi Gruenwald.  Parallel to this, our clergy, senior staff and Board recently gathered for a leadership retreat where we explored the distinction between the roles of lay and professional leaders, how decisions in our synagogue should be made and spent time continuing to refine our vision and strategic priorities.  It was an important step in building a partnership that is crucial to our success, particularly at a time of transition for our shul. Our work was informed by data that has come out of congregational focus groups which have taken place over the last several months to help us learn about what our members are looking for in their HEA experience. This valuable data has reinforced the goals of our strategic plan from 3 years ago. 

While our leadership continues to refine our shul’s vision, I think it is important to share what we have heard from our congregation. It is evident both from our member feedback, as well as what we see across the country, that “Conservative Judaism” is in and of itself going through a transformation. It is being more broadly defined; accordingly our members have expressed that they want choices in how they connect to the spiritual, cultural, educational and religious experiences at HEA.

What We have Learned From HEA Members that Helps Shape our Vision

  • Members want a synagogue that is committed to tradition, while also responding to our changing world.  
  • HEA should serve as a vibrant and welcoming place to congregate for religious and spiritual expression; building a diverse community that includes interfaith couples, the LQBTQ community, and people of all ethnicities, within the bounds of Conservative Judaism.  
  • There should be continued commitment to exploring new music and melodies, experimenting with alternate services, and offering experiences that allow our members to explore Judaism in ways that are meaningful to their lives. 
  • Our outreach and engagement approaches and systems need to be modernized.  Tools like streaming, SMS texting, and podcasts must be utilized to communicate to, engage and mobilize our community.  
  • Through these and more personalized means, the synagogue must strive to attract new families, retain relationships with current members giving special attention to those facing transitions, such as new parents who are looking to create Jewish homes and traditions, our post-b’nai mitzvah and college-aged kids as they form their Jewish identities, and our aging members who need personalized and comforting connections with both our clergy, and with each other. 
  • Members want HEA to strive to be a relevant part of the larger Denver Jewish community when it comes to supporting Israel and engaging in social justice, with a focus on community, relationships with each other and with the Divine.  
  • There is resonance that HEA should be a community of communities, achieving closeness often difficult to exact in a large organization.  
  • There is a strong desire for charismatic clergy and professionals who not only elevate us spiritually but can inspire our congregation, think beyond the immediate, delegate appropriately, and set meaningful relationship building with individuals and families as their highest priority.

Next Steps in Senior Rabbi Search
It is with this data and these aspirations in mind that we launch an interview process with Rabbi Gruenwald over the next several weeks.  Please mark your calendars for one of the two in-person congregational sessions embedded in the link below, to hear directly from Rabbi Gruenwald about how he sees himself leading HEA into the future.  We will also offer a Zoom link for those who cannot attend in person. We invite you to submit questions in advance that you would like Rabbi Gruenwald to respond to in these sessions. Please register in advance to join in-person or virtually. Following each congregational session, participants will receive a follow-up questionnaire to provide feedback. The process is being led by a “transition team” composed of HEA Board members and congregants. Rabbi Gruenwald will also be interviewed by the transition team and the Board of Directors.  On June 29th, the Board will convene to discuss the feedback collected from the interview process and will determine how they want to proceed with Rabbi Gruenwald. I will be in touch with the congregation following this important Board meeting.  

Please Complete Our Survey
As part of our ongoing commitment to hear what you think, and better understand the needs of our members, we ask that you please take some time to complete this congregational survey. The data we collect will continue to inform our vision and help guide our decision making. Your voice is critical in determining how we continue growing as a synagogue community.

Personal Note from Rabbi Gruenwald
Dear Friends,
Over the last 13 years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving you and your family as the Associate Rabbi of Congregation HEA. In that time, I have accompanied families like yours through significant life moments, educated countless adults and children, and produced dynamic and creative Jewish programs with our stellar staff. I am grateful to Rabbi Dollin and to all of you for the professional opportunities you have provided me and for the home you have made for my family here in Denver. We love this synagogue and I hope to serve as your rabbi in the years to come.

In many ways, you know me well and I have strived to know the over 800 families that are part of our congregation. By the same token, I hope to demonstrate to you what I am yet capable of, given the chance to lead. In this moment of transition, I believe our synagogue has many opportunities to continue thriving and carrying on the proud legacy of the Hebrew Educational Alliance.

I invite you to attend the congregational forums on June 9 and June 13, where I will share my thoughts on the future of HEA and the goals and values that would drive my leadership as your next senior rabbi. It will be my objective at those forums, and in the years ahead, to listen with care and concern to serve the diverse needs of our congregation. If I have your support, I hope you will share your comments with Caron Blanke and the Transition Committee. And, if there are ways you think I can improve or if you have suggestions for how I can meet the needs of your family in the future, I also hope you will share your feedback and give me a chance to do better. I would welcome the opportunity to hear from you and address your concerns personally. You can set up a time with me by calling 303-758-9400 or by using my online calendar:

If selected as senior rabbi, I promise to devote myself to the wellbeing of your family and all the families that make up the Hebrew Educational Alliance.


Rabbi Gruenwald

I invite you to be in touch with us with questions or thoughts as we move through this important period of time.  Please email at


Caron Blanke,
HEA Board President

Wed, June 16 2021 6 Tammuz 5781