Ten Congregations Win Epstein Communicate! Awards for Outstanding Programs At Union for Reform Judaisms Biennial Convention
December 14, 2005?Four Reform congregations won $1,000 Epstein Communicate! Awards and six received honorable mentions at the Union for Reform Judaisms 68th Biennial Convention, held in Houston this November.The awards program was created by Barry and Paddy Epstein of Dallas, TX, founders of the Communicate! program, which is a program of the Ida and Howard Wilkoff Department of Synagogue Management.
Communicate! is an online program bank of ideas, program expertise, contacts and resources that has been used successfully in Reform congregations for more than a decade. To increase interest in Communicate! and build its database (now containing more than 2,200 summaries), four Epstein Communicate! awards are presented at each Union Biennial. Each award includes a $1,000 grant to the congregation, to be used for expanded programming.
The 2005 awards are as follows: Best Idea on Any Subject, Congregations of more than 250 households
Temple Israel of West Bloomfield, MI, Kever Avot: Graves of Our Ancestors Each year, members of Temple Israel accompany seniors in the community to visit the graves of their loved ones on a Sunday morning before the High Holy Days. Buses pick up the seniors at area assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Each senior is given a bag containing rocks for the graves, a songbook, a juice box, Kleenex, and hand wipes.
Best Idea on Any Subject, Congregations of less than 250 households
Temple Beth Shalom, Austin, TX, Storybook Hour Once a month, 15 volunteers from Temple Beth Shalom travel to a local prison, meet with inmates who are mothers, assist these women in taping stories to send to their children and then send the tape and a copy of the book to the children themselves.
Best Administrative Idea submitted by an Administrator
Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA: Online Event Management System Rodef Shaloms online event management system is so easy to use that attendance at its events has greatly increased as a result. The system allows congregants to register and to provide information to the temple via the Web.
Best Idea Submitted by a Reform Jewish Educator
Temple Shalom, Dallas, TX: Honor Someone Special Temple Shalom asked its members to bring a guest who had influenced them or made a difference in their lives to Friday night services. More than 1,000 people (representing a wide diversity in color, race and faith), many of whom had never visited a Jewish place of worship before, came to the service and were amazed at the honor bestowed upon them.
Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, ID: Community Garden Program The congregations community garden, located on its synagogue campus, was created to provide refugees in the Boise community (from Somalia, Liberia, Afghanistan, Armenia, and Ukraine) with space to grow an edible garden. The result is the cultivation of high-quality organic food, socialization, and community building, while the refugees learned employable skills. The garden has served nineteen families and the relationship generated a language-learning program that has served an additional 20 refugees.
Oak Park Temple, Oak Park, IL: An Entirely Different Approach to Dues To alleviate a growing imbalance between financial obligations and revenue, the congregation conceived and supported the radical idea of members setting their own dues based on faith in the core values of the congregation supported by text study. Each household was informed of our needs and no relief process was created. Revenues are actually up nine percent, members are sending in their pledge forms in record numbers and on time.
Congregation Beth Israel, Austin, TX: Sponsor a Year of Congregation Beth Israel's History In conjunction with the 125th anniversary of our congregation a fundraising campaign was designed that allowed members to sponsor a year of temple history at $1,000 for each year to commemorate either a personal life-cycle or a temple event. The campaign raised $65,000 in three months.
Community Synagogue, Rye, N: Senior Activities in a Jewish Environment The congregation provides a "home away from home" for senior adult members with lectures, classes and workshops in the synagogue. The rabbi, cantor and other synagogue professionals add a wonderful spiritual and intellectual dimension to the program. A part-time person administers the program.
Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA: 50 Sukkot As part of the congregation's 50th anniversary, 50 Sukkot was created to enable every temple family to spend the Shabbat afternoon during Sukkot in the sukkah of a fellow congregant in their neighborhood. The event was a huge community building success.
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ: Welcome to Ellis Island the the Lower East Side The congregation simulated the Ellis Island/Lower East Side experience by having each congregant/immigrant register, have medical exams, literacy testing, mental competency tests, legal exams and a hearing at the Board of Special Inquiry. Upon arriving in the Lower East Side they found Bubbie's bakery, a pushcart, heard Yiddish stories, learned the alef bais, klezmer music, had family photos taken, watched a performance, and worked in our sweat shop.
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The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the synagogue arm of Reform Judaism in North America, representing 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, adult education opportunities, Outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.