Inviting You to Explore URJ Communities of Practice

The Union for Reform Judaism is thrilled to announce the launch of three URJ Communities of Practice. Jewish tradition places great emphasis on learning and what it brings to both individuals and the community-at-large. With that in mind, the URJ’s soon-to-be launched Communities of Practice will provide opportunities for congregations with shared concerns and interests in a particular area to study and advance their current strategies. Through participation, congregations will be emboldened to experiment “at home,” pushing the boundaries of their previous efforts while receiving peer support and guidance along the way.

Although most communities of practice will learn, experiment and reflect together for 18 months, ultimately they are designed to serve as change agents, assisting congregations in their transformation into communities of belonging, meaning and purpose. The relationships that will emerge from the Communities of Practice will last well beyond the 18 months of formal assembly.

Three Communities of Practice will launch in January 2013:

  • URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice
    With an array of alternative opportunities to connect to Jewish life today, young adults are increasingly invisible within synagogue walls. This Community of Practice brings together congregations aspiring to launch or significantly scale-up their 20s and 30s engagement efforts. Learn more by joining our Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice Informational Webinar on November 13, 2 PM ET or by contacting Naomi Abelson.
  • Successfully Engaging Young Families
    Synagogues can serve as a center for families with young children to explore their Jewish identity and build sustainable community. This Community of Practice brings together congregations without early childhood centers (previously referred to as preschools) that seek to engage these families. Learn more by joining our Successfully Engaging Young Families Community of Practice Informational Webinar on November 14, 1:30 PM or by contacting Stephanie Fink.
  • Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center
    With increased costs and steep competition from government-funded universal pre-kindergarten, Reform congregational early childhood centers (previously referred to as preschools) must take a comprehensive approach to stand out in today’s marketplace. This Community of Practice brings together congregations looking to address these challenges.  Learn more by joining our Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Program Informational Webinar on November 12, 3 PM ET or by contacting Cathy Rolland.

A fourth Community of Practice is coming soon:

  • Reimagining Financial Support for your 21st Century Congregation
    Every synagogue community requires financial support to operate. Most congregations have relied on an outdated financial model. Through participation in this community of practice we will explore the concept of financial support being directly connected to a relational investment between the congregational community and each member – understanding from the congregants’ perspective the value of being invested in a congregational community. Learn more by joining our Reimagining Financial Support for your 21st Century Congregation Webinar, which will be held on a day to be determined in the week of December 10, or contact Vicky Farhi.

Congregations interested in learning more about the communities of practice that will be launched in January 2013 should sign up for the webinars detailed above. Applications for each Community of Practice will be available on November 12th and will be due on December 5th.

Learn more about Communities of Practice, & if you have questions, please feel free to contact me or Vicky Farhi in our capacities as co-directors of Expanding Our Reach. We look forward to taking this exciting new step with you!

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Lisa Lieberman Barzilai

About Lisa Lieberman Barzilai

Lisa Lieberman Barzilai is the Director of the Leadership Institute, which is part of the URJ Strengthening Congregations team. She began her work with the URJ in July 2001 following 14 years of experience as an educator in Reform synagogue congregational schools in New York and New Jersey. Within the URJ and out of it, Lisa has served in various leadership positions: She was formerly the URJ Director of Expanding out Reach, has served on the board of ARJE (formerly NATE) since 1995, and is currently its immediate past-president. She has a Masters in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, which has given her the title of Reform Jewish Educator. She is married to Rabbi Morris W. Barzilai. They live in New Rochelle, New York and have three children: Matti, Zari, and Avi.

4 Responses to “Inviting You to Explore URJ Communities of Practice”

  1. avatar

    Alles for de kinderlach and nothing for our “senior” congregants, and/or congregants without partners? As we all know, Americans are living longer, remaining healthy longer–and are increasingly living alone, most often not by choice. Many of us (I’m speaking for myself) would welcome opportunities to build community within our congregations so we wouldn’t always (for example) have to sit alone in services.

    I know resources are limited, but
    3 to 0, kids win, shutout for everyone else?

  2. Larry Kaufman

    As someone who has worked with many congregations on their long-range planning, I’ve never been confronted with a perceived problem of engaging the senior citizen members of the congregation — it’s always attracting younger folks and new leadership.

    At the URJ’s New Congregations Committee, we have discussed the “competition” from Assisted Living and similar communities which provide, with varying degrees of intensity, religious services for their residents on premises. It’s my perception of the new vision for the Reform movement that our general outreach to the “unaffiliated” (or uninspired, to use Rabbi Jacobs’ preferred term) will cover engaging folks of all ages, with paradigms that might be quite different from our current standard “business model,” based on formal affiliation.

    But meanwhile, the Communities of Practice that Ms. Barzilai describes certainly seem to be looking at greater areas of need for the future health of our congregations than would a concentration on the already well-served senior population. No reason for the URJ to expend resources fixing what isn’t broken.

    • avatar

      Larry, your perspective may tell you “nothing’s broken” on this score, but I wonder if your position and long experience within the movement make it hard for you to notice a need that I would argue DOES exist and is underserved. Recall that Richard Address was aware of the issue and was trying to promote an initiative to address it. Apparently some progress was made in a few communities closer to NY before he left URJ.

  3. Lisa Lieberman Barzilai
    Lisa Lieberman Barzilai Reply November 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    As with everything, there will inevitably be a cohort that will seem to be missing in the list of those we must engage. While we are currently launching these three communities of practice there will be others initiated during the next year that will focus on other communities not centered on the younger generations. At the upcoming Biennial in San Diego we will begin a community of practice focused on engaging Baby Boomers for which work has already begun.

    Vicky Farhi, my partner in this work, and our team are well aware that with these three that have been announced we have just begun to scratch the surface of the various groups which we must engage. As the URJ and its staff builds capacity in this work we will continue to provide congregations with opportunities to explore other cohorts to whom we want to engage in a deeper and more meaningful way.

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