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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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Introducing the URJ’s 2020 Vision: A Clear View of Our Future



When Rabbi Rick Jacobs assumed the presidency of the Union for Reform Judaism two years ago, the URJ committed to develop more coherent and aligned services that not only would significantly strengthen Reform congregations and the pressing issues they face, but also would advance the mission and ideals of Reform Judaism. To understand the needs […]

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Twenty Becomes One: Seeing Our Congregations as Family, Especially During Hardship



In the fall of 2008, I was the executive director of a 1,000-household synagogue. We had recently finished a major sanctuary renovation, and our membership numbers were on an encouraging upward trend. Our finances were sound, and we had big plans for the year ahead. The new president of our board was writing her first […]

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The Days of Awe, Community, and “Relational Judaism”



Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, a distinguished Hasid, told a parable about the Days of Awe of a man who is lost in the woods. Just when he is losing hope, he runs into another person and is filed with joy, exclaiming “Brother, tell me which is the right way. I have been wandering for days.” His […]

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Now Introducing Bonim Kehilah for Jewish Young Adults



Much has been written about millennials and how they’re constructing adult lives: They live at home longer, marry later, and are less likely to affiliate with political and religious institutions than ever before. It follows that those young adults looking for sustained, meaningful Jewish engagement find few entry points into the current communal landscape. Without […]

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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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Engage Jewish Youth During the High Holiday Season



With the High Holidays approaching, congregations are considering new ways to effectively connect to more youth at this vital time in the Jewish calendar. If your synagogue is among those looking at new approaches this year, consider the following variables: Make sure the program content is varied. Teens need spirituality, but are also drawn to […]

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Men of Reform Judaism Announces New Strategic Plan



The Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ) met recently in New Orleans for their annual convention where they announced significant organizational changes to better advocate for and support compelling strategies to engage and connect the men of Reform Judaism. MRJ is the affiliate organization of the Union for Reform Judaism that is focused on connecting and […]

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Annual Meetings: Taking Stock of Where We Are



by Rabbi Laurence Elis Milder, Ph.D. Congregations need times for self-reflection. No congregation should coast, go on auto-pilot, or think of its mission as the doing of business-as-usual. At least once a year, we need to take stock. What have we accomplished? What are the challenges we face? What are the possibilities? Perhaps most important […]

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs

What Is Audacious Hospitality?



The Jewish people is here today because those who came before us were audacious. By that I mean courageous, fearless, and bold. Genesis teaches us to practice audacious hospitality. On a blisteringly hot day, Abraham runs after three desert wanderers, insisting they come inside for nourishment. What makes his act so memorable is not waiting […]

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Jay Ruderman: Disability Issues are Issues of Social Justice



by Jay Ruderman Wikipedia defines social justice as, “the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live.” This definition can be broken down into three parts: realizing potential, in society, and where they live. For Jewish people with disabilities, each of these parts presents a challenge – and for the […]

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A Special Worship Service for Jews with Disabilities and Their Families



by Nancy Crown When I was called to meet with a member of my synagogue’s Congregation-Based Community Organizing Committee, I almost declined.  I was asked to think about what the temple could do that it was not already doing. My main reaction was to reflect on the many opportunities for learning, worship, and community that […]

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It Takes a Village (and a Little URJ Help) to Build a Congregational Website



With people doing so much of their shopping online these days – for everything from clothing to electronics to groceries to books, and just about everything else – it’s become evident to my synagogue’s board that temple shopping begins online, too. Prospective members no longer wait to drop in unannounced at Shabbat services or attend […]

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