A great synagogue website does many things well, but the most important thing it does is easily communicate information about the synagogue to congregants, potential members, and other people looking at it. With that in mind, here is a list of 18 important elements that I recommend any synagogue’s website should have.
- Address, Phone, and Email – These should be displayed in both the header and footer, as both are obvious locations where your congregants will look for this information.
- Staff directory – A full list of your synagogue’s professional staff and their contact information (phone extensions and email addresses).
- Google map – In my opinion it’s an absolute must nowadays to have a Google map embedded on your website. You may or may not want to display directions as well; if you choose not to, just provide a link to the larger Google map with a link that indicates that congregants can find directions through that interface.
- Newsletter subscription field – With more and more synagogues using online email services such as Constant Contact, you can place a subscription form on your website so that congregants and visitors can easily sign up to receive weekly or monthly bulletins and messages.
- Service times – Daily or weekly minyans, Friday night services, Shabbat morning services, etc. These should be displayed prominently on the homepage.
- Calendar – The full calendar of what’s happening at your synagogue. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as embedding a Google calendar, using more advanced calendar functionality, etc.
- Candlelighting times – Shabbat candlelighting times for your community. You can get these from Hebcal.com as a script that can easily be added anywhere on your website.
- Holiday schedule – Service and programming times for your synagogue’s observance of Jewish holidays throughout the year.
- Upcoming Jewish holidays – Help congregants plan ahead by displaying the full year’s schedule of Jewish holidays on the synagogue’s website. You can get this from Hebcal.com, which has four years of holidays published and available for download.
- Of congregants – People are what make up your synagogue’s community, and that sense of community is what’s most important to convey through your website. Take pictures at anything that your synagogue does, and scatter these picture throughout the website and most importantly, on the homepage.
- Of past events – Take pictures of past programs to give people looking at the website a good idea of what life is like at your synagogue over the course of the year.
- Of the synagogue itself – Pictures of the building or any architectural highlights. I don’t necessarily think these belong on the homepage though – people join a synagogue for the people, not the building. These can be put on internal pages, or on the homepage, just sparingly.
- Calls-to-action – Your website has a purpose, and that purpose is to get people to do something. Make a donation? Fill out a membership form? RSVP to a program? All of these are calls-to-action that should be ranked and emphasized accordingly in the design.
- Membership information – Prospective members are going to be looking at your website, so in addition to everything else, make it easy for them to find information about how to join the synagogue.
- Rabbi’s blog – Rabbis produce a ton of content, be it in emails, speeches, etc., so getting content from them should be easy. Ask them to provide you with some of that content to post on the website, which you can even just cut-and-paste from an email or Word document.
- Latest news/Announcements – The website’s main purpose is to convey timely information to a synagogue’s congregants, so this should be front and center on the homepage and cross-referenced from other internal areas of the website.
- Ways to donate – Synagogues are always looking for donations, so this should be a main call-to-action on your website. Bonus points if congregants can make donations online using a service such as PayPal.
- Social media – Does your synagogue have a Facebook page? Twitter feed? YouTube videos? There are many ways to integrate those with your website, depending on how it’s designed.
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Is your synagogue looking for a new website, or help with your current one? These are all elements that we can help you add to your website – contact us today to get started!
About Hirsch Fishman
Hirsch has been working professionally with websites since 2001, working exclusively in, and focusing on, the Jewish community. Hirsch offers a wide range of website knowledge to his synagogue web design clients from his years of experience working in the Jewish community. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.