TWENTY REFORM SYNAGOGUES HONORED FOR THEIR INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO OUTREACH TO INTERFAITH FAMILIES
(MINNEAPOLIS, November 5) - Ten Reform congregations were honored today for their innovative and effective programs to actively welcome and integrate interfaith couples and those new to Judaism into their synagogues at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations' 67th Biennial Convention in Minneapolis, MN. These congregations received the Belin Outreach Awards, presented every two years by the UAHC-CCAR Commission on Outreach and Synagogue Community.
The Belin Awards, established in 1995, are funded through the generosity of the late David Belin, z''l, the first chairman of the Commission. The programs were judged on their effectiveness, creativity, and the ease with which other synagogues can replicate them. Each Belin Award-winning congregation received a grant for $1,000. An additional 10 congregations were awarded honorable mentions.
All winners and honorable mentions will have their programs reprinted in Reform Jewish Outreach: The 2004 Idea Book, a publication of the UAHC Press that is used by more than 900 Reform synagogues throughout North America.
"This year's honorees have done an amazing job of fulfilling the mitzvah of keruv - bringing near those who are far," said Dru Greenwood, director of the Commission. "Thanks to their efforts, families have been able to find a new home in Judaism, and have been welcomed into their new communities with open arms."
Congregations that received the $1,000 Belin Outreach Award, and the programs they established, are:
Congregation Emeth, Gilroy, CA: Hand-in-Hand Across the Red Sea and Partners on the Path, a program that supports interfaith couples who have not yet made the decision about which religion they will choose for their children, and a program for the Jewish partners of prospective Jews-by-choice;
Congregation Shir Ha-Ma'a lot, Irvine, CA: Jewish Journeys, in which Jews-by-choice share their experiences of choosing Judaism in the congregational bulletin;
Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, CA: Learn to Cook Like Bubbe Cooked!, five sessions of Jewish cooking and learning, combined with a Shabbat dinner and celebration;
Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA: Outreach Jewish Enrichment Series, a core curriculum of classes offered throughout the synagogue year to members and non-members alike;
Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood, CA: Open Hands, Open Doors, a three-part series that uses the seasons and holidays as a launching pad to discuss issues of concern to interfaith families in the synagogue's diverse community;
Temple Jeremiah, Northfield, IL: Teach Them Faithfully to Your Children, an effort to bring grandfathers and fathers into the synagogue to study Torah with their children and grandchildren;
Temple Israel, Boston, MA: Engaging and Reconnecting Young Adults: The Riverway Project, an Outreach and integration initiative for unaffiliated young adults;
Central Reform Synagogue, St. Louis, MO: Interfaith Workshop Series, which enables a diverse group of interfaith couples and families to find a way into the Jewish community;
Temple Beth El, Las Cruces, NM: Mentoring with Meschlichkeit, a program that trains synagogue members to mentor and support new interfaith couples and those in the process of conversion;
Temple Israel, Memphis, TN: Connections, a full-spectrum program that reaches out to young singles, young couples, working mothers, and parents of teenagers.
The congregations which received an honorable mention award, and the programs for which they were honored, are: Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton, CA: Starting Outreach Programming Step-by-Step; Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA: Outreach on the Web; Oak Park Temple, Oak Park, IL: All in the Family: Jewish Diversity; Temple Oheb Shalom, Baltimore, MD: Downtown Shabbat Service; Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD: Overtures: An Interfaith Family Jewish Learning Experience; Temple Beth El, Charlotte, NC: Merkin Interfaith Institute; Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Franklin Lakes, NJ: Making the Case for Outreach; Congregation Gates of Heaven, Schenectady, NY: Kaddosh Kids; Temple Sholom, Broomall, PA: Bellies and Babies; Temple Brith Achim, King of Prussia, PA: Cooking and Celebrating.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. UAHC services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.