URJ Awards Grants to Fund Taste of Judaism™ Classes
The Union for Reform Judaism has awarded grants to congregations in 17 cities to offer Taste of Judaism ™, a free, three-session class for beginners – Jewish or not – that explores the topics of Jewish spirituality, ethics and community values.
A Taste of Judaism™ is a high-visibility, low-threshold program of liberal Jewish content designed to pique the interest of all who are searching for an access point to Jewish life. The class is designed for those who would like to explore or re-explore the foundations of Jewish tradition and are looking for an entry into Judaism. The class has been remarkably successful with unaffiliated Jews, those who are not Jewish but who are interested in learning about Judaism, interfaith couples and their families and those considering conversion. A Taste of Judaism™ has been held in synagogues across North America since spring 1994. To date, more than 100,000 people have participated in the course.
Says URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Jonah Pesner,
Experience shows that many, many people coming from truly diverse backgrounds find meaning and purpose by exploring Jewish life. We are thrilled to help local Jewish communities open their doors wide and provide this critical entry for all those who are seeking and will find a connection.
For the congregations receiving the grant, the URJ will fund 60% or more of anticipated advertising costs plus a modest honorarium for the instructor. With or without URJ financial support, all URJ congregations offering A Taste of Judaism™ receive training, camera-ready advertisements, a class listing on the URJ’s new website for people interested in Judaism, access to Taste of Judaism™ administrative documents and more.
Participant Julie Unger from Boston says of the class,
Before we were married, my husband Matt had very little knowledge about Judaism…. Taste of Judaism was a great first time exposure for him. Our class was made up of interfaith couples and individuals who were simply ‘curious’ about Judaism or in the process of converting. Matt loved the history piece and especially wanted to know more about the Jewish holidays and how they were celebrated. It was only three classes, which was just enough to tickle our taste buds.
And from Rabbi Elliot Stevens at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, AL:
The Taste of Judaism program has been a boon to us in terms of public appreciation and understanding. One Jewish participant who hadn’t set foot in a Jewish house of worship in more than 40 years has now found a home with us, and his wife is working towards conversion. More than 20 from our “Taste” class have continued on with a basic Judaism course, of whom about 15 are also learning to read basic Hebrew.
Fourteen individual sites have been chosen as grant winners, and will receive financial assistance from the URJ toward advertising and classes:
- Mobile, AL
- Alameda, CA
- Atascadero, CA
- Culver City, CA
- Grass Valley, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- West Palm Beach, FL
- Chevy Chase, MD
- Franklin Lakes, NJ
- Hilton Head Island, SC
- Beaumont, TX
- McAllen, TX
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Westmount, Quebec
In addition, four metro areas will offer Taste™ collaboratively and in partnership with other funders. Three Sarasota, FL, congregations will collaborate to bring A Taste of Judaism… Are You Curious™? to participants across the city, and will receive a joint grant from the URJ and Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. In Boston, the A Taste of Judaism… Are You Curious™? program is supported by a grant from Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which enables the URJ to offer this class at Reform congregations throughout the greater Boston area.
The URJ and UJA-Federation in New York will also collaborate on a new initiative, in which A Taste of Judaism… Are You Curious™? will be offered to young adults in their 20s and 30s in Manhattan and Brooklyn. While some of the sessions will take place in congregations, some will take place in coffee shops and other venues. These classes will enable young adults in New York to pursue their Jewish journeys in an approachable and casual environment.
In Chicago, the A Taste of Judaism… Are You Curious™? program is supported by a generous grant from an anonymous foundation, which enables the URJ to offer this class at 12 Reform congregations per year throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Classes this year will be held as far north as Kenosha, WI, and as far east as Munster, IN.
Classes will also be offered in additional congregations that did not receive the URJ grants, but will receive administrative support and resources from the URJ. These include:
- Calabasas, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- Santa Monica, CA
- Charlotte, NC
- Newburgh, NY
- Maple Glen, PA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Fredericksburg, VA
- Hamilton, Ontario
- Ottawa, Ontario
For information about A Taste of Judaism… Are You Curious™?, visit our website.