NEW YORK, January 9, 2012 For the second year, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is offering Incubator Grants to member congregations. Up to 20 projects will be funded a maximum of $5,000 for fiscal year July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013.
Incubator Grants provide seed funding for innovative new projects designed to actively engage more people in Reform synagogue life by stimulating creative thinking in three main areas: creating a culture that supports and encourages conversion; retention and engagement of post b'nei mitzvah teens and their families; and engagement in synagogue life (including recruitment of potential members, integration of recent members and retention of current members).
URJ President-elect Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced recently at the URJ Biennial that two of the top priorities of the URJ will be to catalyze congregational change and to engage the next generation. "We plan to work with you to build the capacity of each of our congregations. Some of your experiments we will be able to support with new Incubator Grants and others we'll support with creative thinking and refinement," he said. Rabbi Jacobs encourages congregations to focus on building relationships and to consider activities that take place outside the synagogue walls.
"As we begin our work to catalyze change in our congregations, our Movement is thinking about the future, with congregations taking the lead," said URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Dan Freelander. "Rabbi Yoffie launched our URJ Incubator Grant Program a year ago to encourage congregations to dream, to develop new programs to reach out to people who are not normally engaged in Jewish life. Nearly 200 synagogues submitted proposals. We invite each and every congregation to dream about what you might do in the next two years and to apply for a 2012 Incubator Grant."
Last year's Incubator Grant winners included 19 congregations from across North America including a congregation that created worship services for those with special needs, one that engaged a group of teenage boys and another that reached out to families of patients at a major medical facility in the area.
One new focus of this year's Incubator Grants is on retaining and engaging youth and families post b'nei mitzvah. This category of grants serves as one of the first steps of the newly launched Campaign for Youth Engagement, a focused, strategic effort to leverage the full strength and talent of every corner of the Reform Movement to ensure that we succeed in engaging the majority of youth by 2020. The campaign has already raised over $1 million and hired Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, the URJ's first ever North American Director of Youth Engagement.
URJ Senior Vice President Jonah Pesner announced at Biennial 2011, "We at the URJ have raised money for the Campaign for Youth Engagement not just to build up our own staff, but to invest in you. We are excited to announce the opportunity to provide grants to foster innovation and experimentation at the local level. Nobody knows your congregation, your community, better than you do. We invite you to convene conversations with your rabbis, cantors, youth leaders, educators, lay leaders, synagogue professionals, parents and teens to collectively imagine what we can do in your home community to put a stop to the post b'nei mitzvah revolving door. We can find exciting new strategies to successfully reach and engage youth and families in meaningful Jewish community. If you can dream it, we will build it together."
Additional grants will be offered to congregations as part of the URJ's Campaign for Youth Engagement throughout the year. Applications for the 2012 URJ Incubator Grants must be received by Feb. 28, 2012. Visit the URJ Incubator Grants webpage to learn more.