Posts Tagged: congregational life

Helping Jewish Teens Step Into Their “Comfort Zones”



During one of my graduate seminars we reviewed a book called: “The Leader Who is Hardly Known,” by Steven Simpson. Our discussion completely changed the way I think about teen and youth programming. The book is based upon the teachings of Lau Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher.

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The Year That Was: One Congregation’s Prayer Services without a Rabbi



My synagogue, Kehillat Emet VeShalom in Nahariya, Israel, just completed a year of prayer services on our own without a rabbi. We recently met to reflect on the year and to voice our thoughts and opinions. First, to set the mood and remind us of some of the special moments that we shared during the […]

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Sometimes Inclusion Makes Me Nervous



On Yom Kippur morning, an amazing young woman came to our bimah to chant Torah.  She happens to be blind. And while I eagerly anticipated what I knew would be a stunning aliyah, I found myself really nervous. Why would I be nervous?  This should have been a moment of immense pride that the inclusive […]

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URJ Chairman’s Perspective: Why I Volunteer



Like many of you, I am a volunteer. And, like all of us who volunteer, there are days when I question my own sanity and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” As I reflect on it, the answer to why we volunteer in a congregation or at the Union for Reform Judaism is no […]

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An Open Door: Youth Engagement in Our Jewish Community



The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. by Lindsay Ganci At The Community Synagogue of Port Washington, N.Y., all Jewish teens in the area are welcome to join our youth programs—whether […]

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It’s Never Too Late To Engage Our Teens



During Rosh HaShanah this year, one of “my” teens was invited to give the High Holy Day appeal during services. The board and professional staff of Temple Beth-El in San Pedro, CA, where I work, recognizes the power that teens hold and understands that they are the future of the temple. The teen they asked was someone who had felt disenfranchised from the synagogue and was pulled back in by his peers, youth programming and the idea of building his own youth group community.

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Teen “Busy-ness”: A Challenge or an Opportunity?



“Busier than ever:” This is the refrain we, as youth advisors, hear over and over again about the schedules of our teens. Whether expressed as a positive (teens are “highly engaged”) or a negative (they are “over-programmed”), the implications for their involvement in youth group are clear — less time available overall usually means less involvement in youth group programs.

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Biennial: The Antidote to Pew Study Anxiety



Soon after I finished reading the Pew Research’s Religion and Public Life Project study, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” the first thing I did was to register for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention in San Diego. Getting together with 5,000+ committed Jews ranks high on my short list of responses to the more […]

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Knowing When it’s Time: A Response to Rabbi Rosalind Gold



La-kol z’man; v’eit l’khol khefetz takhat ha-shamayim…eit s’fod v’eit r’kod… (To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time to mourn and a time to dance…) These words from Ecclesiastes 3, so familiar and widely affirmed to us in liturgy and in song, are nonetheless ignored in the common […]

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What the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution Is (and Is Not)



Last month – on the front page of the New York Times, no less – there was a lengthy article on the state of b’nai mitzvah ceremonies in the United States. This coverage came just days after the latest example of an over-the-top celebration outside Las Vegas, which featured an ostentatious display of dancers, lighting, and more. Perhaps you saw the video on YouTube. The newspaper article questioned – as we all do, I believe – how this rite of passage can become as meaningful and as moving as our ancestors intended. The article proceeds to highlight and applaud what is being termed the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a program run by the Union for Reform Judaism, which aims to inject thought and scrutiny into the broader process of becoming b’nai mitzvah.

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The Biennial as Change Agent for Your Congregation



by Julie Schwartz How can Reform congregations turn an invigorating URJ Biennial experience into lasting change? Here are a few tips from congregations big and small that have turned a trip to the Biennial into meaningful growth experiences: Attend with a goal in mind, but be open to new ideas. Prior to attending the URJ […]

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Why Do People Volunteer at the Synagogue?



by Neil Platt Earlier this year, my synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom of the Woodlands, endeavored to build a new Havdalah area with a wooded trail and outdoor teaching area. Happily, we completed the work in time to consecrate the area during this year’s Yom Kippur Havdalah service. Nearly 200 people withstood the Texas summer heat […]

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Let’s Talk Turkey: Thanksgiving Ideas for Congregational Boards



Thanksgiving is next month (or this month for our Canadian friends) and while it is not a Jewish holiday, you and your board can still use the essence of the holiday – giving thanks – as an impetus for recognizing the dedication of folks within your congregational community. Many congregations rely on the hard work […]

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October 1st Healthcare Deadline for Congregations



An important message for all congregational presidents, administrator, rabbis, and executive directors: With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, all URJ member congregations who employ staff, either on a part- or full-time basis, are required to fulfill a variety of requirements to ensure compliance with the law. These requirements are dependent on whether a […]

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