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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776
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Union Adds Three New Congregations

Emily Grotta


Congregations in Fort Collins, CO, Kalispell, MT and Seattle, WA are the newest members of the Union for Reform Judaism, evidence of the continuing growth of Jewish communities in the Western states.

The congregations were accepted into the Union for Reform Judaism at its recent board meeting in Denver, bringing the total number of synagogues affiliated with the Reform Movement to more than 910.

Over the past decade, the Reform Movement has experienced a period of unprecedented growth. While the latest Jewish population survey suggests a steady decline in the Jewish population as a whole and a decrease in synagogue affiliation, the Reform Movement continues to experience an increase in membership, with more than 60 new congregations formed in the past decade. The Union attributes this growth to Reform Judaism’s willingness to change, its leadership in issues of social justice, civil liberties, and the full equality of women, and its outreach to interfaith families who wish to explore and embrace the richness of Judaism.

By becoming members of the Union for Reform Judaism, the three congregations – Temple Or Hadash of Fort Collins, CO, Congregation Bet Harim of Kalispell, MT, and Congregation Kol HaNeshama of Seattle, WA – will be able to participate in the broad community of North American Reform Judaism. The congregations will have access to the Union’s innovative worship programming, youth camps, adult retreats, music programs, and other exciting opportunities.

Located in northern Colorado’s majestic Rockies, Temple Or Hadash was founded in order to establish a welcoming Reform community in the growing city of Fort Collins, which has seen a boom in its technology and professional sectors. Currently, Or Hadash boasts eleven member families, a religious school, and an adult Torah study program. “Our congregation has grown slowly, primarily by intent,” said Wendy Schumacher, the temple’s president. “We feel that affiliation [with the Union] will be attractive to future members, while providing overall support as our congregation grows, changes, and establishes itself in the community.”

Kol HaNeshama has 26 member families – most of whom live in West Seattle – a religious school, and both a junior and senior youth group. According to its mission statement, the congregation uses prayer, inner reflection and study, and insights from contemporary wellness to create a sacred environment. We wish to join the Union so that we might add our voices and our support to the regional and national Reform Jewish Movement,” said Ann Eisenberg, the congregation’s immediate past president. “We want to take advantage of the knowledge gained by the people and organizations who have come before us – to learn from them, and, in turn, teach others.”

Congregation Bet Harim, one of only five Reform congregations in the state of Montana, began as the Flathead Valley Jewish Community in 1987. Formed by a handful of Kalispell families seeking to observe Jewish holidays together, the congregation’s programming gradually expanded to include frequent Shabbat services, educational programs, a religious school, and tikkun olam work at a local homeless shelter. Currently, the synagogue has 33 member families, and wishes to affiliate with the Reform Movement in order to provide structure and consistency for its present and prospective members.

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the synagogue arm of Reform Judaism in North America, and represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 920 congregations across the United States and Canada. Union programs and services include youth camps, music and book publishing, youth camps, adult education opportunities, Outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.


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