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Five Lessons Learned: How the URJ’s Communities of Practice Strengthen Congregations



by Amy Asin and Lisa Lieberman Barzilai Two years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism launched its Communities of Practice (CoP) initiative. We began with five separate cohorts, comprising lay and professional leaders from congregations throughout North America: Pursuing Excellence in Your Early Centers Engaging Families with Young Children Engaging Young Adults Reimagining Financial Support […]

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Chicago’s Innovative Approach to Engaging Young Families



by Nancy Manewith It all began with an amazing meeting – a discussion, really – with Susan Zukrow, the URJ’s project director for the Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative (CEELI). This new program, funded by the Crown Family Philanthropies and facilitated by the URJ, brings together 12 cross-denominational Jewish early childhood centers from the Chicago […]

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Achieving Excellence by Pursuing Excellence in our Early Childhood Center



For the past 18 months, the URJ supported three “Communities of Practice,” cohorts of congregations that came together to learn, discuss, and experiment in a specific field. Members from participating congregations have been asked to reflect about their process. by Dr. Paula Sayag As an early childhood consultant with Washington, D.C.’s central Jewish education agency, […]

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The Challenges of Teaching about Israel



by Jack Wertheimer With the new school year nearly upon us, Jewish educational leaders are scrambling to prepare their teachers to discuss this summer’s Gaza War. The most pressing challenge is to design age-appropriate conversations: At which grade level might classroom discussions include potentially frightening topics, such as the wounding of non-combatants, kidnapping of young […]

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This Should Be a Word: “Congfirmation”



Every week I look for the “That Should Be a Word” column in The One-Page Magazine in the Sunday New York Times. The column, if you can call it that, has an amazing knack for coining a good neologism – a new word or phrase. The humor, smarts, and creativity of the words inspired me to create my own […]

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Blue Ridge Mountain High: The ECE-RJ Kallah



by Cathy Rolland How fortunate I was to be among a dedicated group of early childhood professionals who gathered last weekend in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for a dose of spiritual renewal and time together with respected colleagues with whom I could share ideas, resources, and challenges around our sacred work to engage young […]

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Putting “Inspired Engagement” into Motion



The powerful roll out of the newest implementation steps of the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the recent URJ Biennial in San Diego has generated excellent feedback and momentum. Our Reform movement-wide approach is called Inspired Engagement, a transformative teen and young adult network, which integrates diverse program offerings into one seamless year-round matrix in […]

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Apply for Taste of Judaism™ Advertising Grants!



The URJ is now accepting applications for 2014-2015 Taste of Judaism™ Advertising Grants. Since 1994, A Taste of Judaism: Are You Curious?™ has engaged nearly 100,000 individuals searching for an easy access point to liberal Jewish life. Classes are advertised as “open to all, Jewish or not.” We want you to consider making Taste™ a […]

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Just Say Yes: Inclusion is a No-Brainer



Past President Michael Kaplan likes to tell the story about why he joined his current congregation and ultimately became its president. He talks about one High Holy Days when he entered the sanctuary with his wife, their profoundly challenged son Brandon, and Brandon’s guide dog. Settling into the services, sitting in the front row, they […]

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URJ Launches Details of “Inspired Engagement” for Jewish Youth



The URJ unveiled a new strategy for engaging youth at its Biennial Convention in San Diego this past week. “Inspired engagement” – what the URJ is branding as its distinct way of engaging youth – emerged after an eight-month strategic planning process that included voices of more than 700 stakeholders from across the Jewish community […]

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Remembering Arik Einstein, Who Helped Change the World A Little Bit



by Alona Nir One of the names that will be mentioned at the URJ Biennial this week is Arik Einstein. Those of us who spent time in Jewish activities during our childhood, especially in NFTY or at summer camp, are familiar with famous song “Ani Ve Ata Neshane Et Ha’Olam,” which translates to “You and […]

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Spotlight on Early Childhood Education

Reform Judaism Leads the Way on Early Childhood Education



The way we look at early childhood engagement is rapidly changing. In a recent JTA article titled, “Free tuition? Jewish preschool leaders say money’s not the problem,” URJ Faculty Member Cathy Rolland discusses the Reform Movement’s role in the evolving realm of early childhood education and the importance of building a collective voice in the […]

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Registration’s Open at Our New Jewish Science and Technology Camp!



Registration is now open for URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, a new summer camp offering high-level programming in science and technology. This innovative new camp will open in July 2014 on the campus of The Governor’s Academy near Boston. URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy will attract campers seeking high-level science and technology experiential and fun […]

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Moving Our Community from a “Serve Us” to a “Service” Mentality



by Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas I’ve had the privilege to learn from URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs on several occasions, the most recent of which was in January 2013 in Chicago. I was there, along with a lay partner, and representatives from a handful of other congregations to form the first cohort of the URJ’s […]

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