Applications are Now Open for the URJ Communities of Practice!

Is your congregation ready to learn and innovate? Are you prepared to grapple with challenging but important issues and questions, but aren’t quite sure where to begin?

The URJ is thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the URJ Communities of Practice, and we invite your congregation to apply. Communities of Practice (CoPs) are an opportunity for your congregation to come together with others around a topic of shared interest. For 18-24 months, participating congregations will learn from experts in the field, ask big questions, share ideas and best practices, apply these lessons through experimentation, and as a result, strengthen their communities.

We have been so inspired by stories we’ve heard from synagogues across North America that have been transformed by their involvement in past CoPs. One such story comes from Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley, CA, a small congregation that realized it was uniquely positioned to fill the needs of young, unaffiliated families seeking a Jewish community. As they worked to support these families, the congregation expanded in membership and in self-identity. Read more of their powerful story.

Indeed, joining a Community of Practice is an exciting and profound opportunity for synagogues and their congregational leaders, challenging participants to think congregational work in new and different ways. Participation is truly a labor of love, and the more you put in, the more you will get out. This means that, as a participating congregation, you will be expected to devote time and human capital to experimenting with and implementing the ideas you develop and nurture within the CoP. Participants must be able to devote between 4-6 hours per month to this work and attend group learning sessions – but equally critical is a commitment to bringing that learning home and figuring out how to make it relevant and useful in your congregational work.

We encourage your congregational leadership – including lay leaders, clergy, and other professionals – to have a conversation to choose one CoP topic that most interests you. If you feel that you can fully commit to participation in more than one CoP, please apply for both. Our staff will work closely with your synagogue throughout the application process to ensure that you are positioned to succeed. The deadline to apply is June 15, 2015, so apply now!

Once you’ve applied, URJ staff will reach out to set up an informal interview with your CoP team. This will be an opportunity for us to learn more about each other and begin to develop mutual goals and expectations. Congregations will be notified by mid-July if they’ve been accepted into the CoP. Our first online gathering will take place after the High Holidays, followed an in-person launch at the 2015 URJ Biennial Convention the morning of Wednesday, November 4.

We’ll then ask you to build a team that includes a lay leader with interest and involvement in the area, as well as the member of your professional staff responsible for this issue. (If you don’t have staff devoted to this topic, we welcome two lay leaders to form the core team.) These people will be your representatives in the CoP, but we also encourage you to engage others on your congregational team to help the CoP members bring the work back to your synagogue in a meaningful and impactful way.

To learn more, please sign up for an informational webinar on any of the topics being offered:

CoP Topic Webinar date and time
Building a Brand: Excellence in Reform Movement Early Childhood Engagement (congregations with an ECC) Wednesday, May 13, 1pm EDT
Creating Connected Communities for Families with Young Children (congregations without ECCs) Wednesday, May 13, 1pm EDT
Finding the Sacred in the Mundane: Reimagining Financial Support Thursday, May 14, 2pm EDT
Strengthening Israel Engagement in your Congregation Tuesday, May 19, 12pm EDT
Pursuing Justice: Becoming a Community of Action (with the Religious Action Center) Wednesday, May 20, 1pm EDT
B’nai Mitzvah Revolution: Innovators Lab (application available May 20) Wednesday, May 20th, 2:30pm EDT
Engaging Congregants: Small Groups with Meaning Thursday, May 21, 3pm EDT


Want to learn more? Visit the CoP website, login or register to join the conversation in The Tent, or contact Jessica Ingram, Manager of Communities of Practice.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email
Rabbi Esther Lederman

About Rabbi Esther Lederman

Rabbi Esther L. Lederman is the associate rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington, DC. In July 2015, she will join the Union for Reform Judaism as Director of Communities of Practice.


  1. How Tots Helped Our Small Congregation Grow | RJ Blog - May 6, 2015

    […] are now open for the URJ’s next round of Communities of Practice. Learn more about the process to determine whether it’s right for your congregation, and apply […]

  2. This Month in The Tent: Engaging Families with Young Children | RJ Blog - May 11, 2015

    […] learning together is so important, the URJ just launched seven new Communities of Practice, including two designed to help leaders with early engagement: Building a Brand: Excellence in […]

  3. Op-ed: “Conventional Wisdom Has Shifted” Regarding Congregational Life | RJ Blog - June 8, 2015

    […] they now see that they must innovate, by transforming the way that they create sacred community and meaningful Jewish experiences to […]

Leave a Reply