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October 5, 2015 | 22nd Tishrei 5776
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Congregation of Learners Award

Emily Grotta


(MINNEAPOLIS, November 6) - Eleven Reform congregations were honored for their exceptional, varied, and comprehensive adult learning programs today at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations' 67th Biennial Convention in Minneapolis, MN.

Four of these synagogues received the Congregation of Learners Award, a brand-new honor established for the 2003 Biennial by the UAHC's Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning, while an additional seven were given honorable mentions. Applicants were judged on their creativity, inclusiveness, Judaic content, educational method, and the ease with which the programs could be replicated in other congregations.

Congregational size was not a factor, as the winning synagogues ranged from 145 member families to 1,400. Winning congregations received $150 worth of books and merchandise relating to adult Jewish learning from the UAHC Press. In addition, their programs will be featured in a new manual, "Best Practices in Adult Study 2003," which will be made available to all UAHC synagogues. The manual can currently be accessed online.*

"Seventy-one congregations applied for this award, and the creativity and energy they showed bowled us over," said Rabbi Jan Katzew, Director of the Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning. "We were truly amazed at the quality of adult Jewish learning that exists in Reform synagogues."

The winning congregations are:

Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA: This congregation offers learning opportunities in eleven subject areas, including Jewish culture, history, holidays, life cycle, and prayer, as well as ethical mitzvot, God, Israel, the greater Jewish community, and t'filah. Its website features an extensive database of rabbinical sermons and divrei Torah, and all of its programs are easily replicable.

Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, KS: Beth Torah serves its 600 member families with a robust set of programs that are scheduled to meet the needs of busy adult congregants, often focus on relevant topics that show how Judaism influences everyday life, and develop the participation of lay leaders in worship and study. In addition, all members of Beth Torah sign a "Covenant of Membership, which calls for them to strive to live Jewishly while strengthening their involvement in the community through worship, study, and acts of loving kindness.

Isaac M. Wise Temple, Cincinnati, OH: Isaac M. Wise Temple (1,400 member families) strives to provide learning opportunities every day of the week and at all levels of learning. Topics include the basics of Judaism, family learning, Hebrew, text study, historical and contemporary Jewish perspective. Classes are taught by lay leaders, clergy, educators, and experts from the local community, helping learning become a shared community achievement.

Congregation Kol Ami, Flower Mound, TX: A small congregation (145 members), Kol Ami uses a two-pronged approach of emphasizing Hebrew and worship competence as well as broad Jewish knowledge to make sure that its membership is Jewishly literate. More than 81 adults attended an adult education program during the past year, six congregants now lead Shabbat services, and, over the past three years, 20 people have converted to Judaism following adult study.

Honorable mentions were given to: Congregation Am Shalom, Glencoe, IL; Congregation Sukkat Shalom, Wilmette, IL; Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Great Barrington, MA; Temple Shalom of Newton, West Newton, MA; Temple Israel, Omaha, NE; Congregation Albert, Albuquerque, NM; and Temple Beth-El, Las Cruces, NM.

More than 4,000 people from Reform congregations across North America are attending the Reform Movement's five-day Biennial Convention in Minneapolis.


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.

* This file is in PDF file format, in order to download you must have Acrobat Reader. To download Acrobat Reader for free, please click here.


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