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November 26, 2014 | 4th Kislev 5775

Reform Movement Calls for "Revolution"

Far-reaching New Initiative Aims to Reinvent Congregational B'nai Mitzvah Programs


Contact: Annette Powers
917-225-4857

apowers@urj.org

 
The Reform Movement’s B’nai Mitzvah Revolution is the widest reaching initiative ever, launched by the Movement to radically transform the entire B’nai Mitzvah experience.
 
The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution is a joint project of the Hebrew Union College's Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) and the Union for Reform Judaism's Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE).  The first set of pilot congregations participated in a weekend-long workshop last week with 65 professionals and lay leaders from 14 congregations including faculty and staff from the ECE and CYE. The project is being co-directed by Dr. Isa Aron, HUC professor of Jewish education and Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, URJ's director of Youth Engagement.
 
The goal of the workshop was to support the congregational teams in radically rethinking their approaches to the preparation for, and celebration of, bar and bat mitzvah. Session topics focused on adolescent development, visioning, developing experiments, new approaches to congregational education, alternative approaches to teaching Hebrew, and involving the broader community.  In addition, an entire day was devoted to training one representative from each congregation in Action Research. Action Research is an approach to gathering and analyzing data done by practitioners (in this case educators and lay leaders) in order to bring about change. This project is one of the first that is committed to systematically collecting data from all of the participating synagogues to help the pilot congregations learn and to share those learnings within the Movement and throughout the broader Jewish community.
 
Dr. Michael Zeldin, senior national director of the Schools of Education at HUC, who attended the workshop, commented, “Rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders engaged in intense conversation about how to rethink patterns that were more than 50 years in the making.  If these congregations implement even half of what they are contemplating, we will be well on our way to seriously impacting how we engage our young people.”
 
Following the workshop each congregation will be working with a facilitator to gather and analyze data from the process of planning their experiments, to be part of a support network and will commit to developing a long range plan as well as a set of experiments they will implement by the fall of 2013.
 
Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, senior Rabbi at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Cleveland, OH, one of the pilot congregations, commented that, "This helps us consider how to step back from our well-rehearsed roles – as rabbis and cantors, parents and students, tutors and educators -- to prepare and guide our students toward b'nai mitzvah. The opening conference challenged us to experiment and to search for the most compelling path forward."
 
Jennifer Perlick, a lay leader from Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, CO, added, "Coming together with other congregations, spending time brainstorming collectively while also working in our independent groups to come up with our congregational b'nai mitzvah vision was an amazingly beneficial experience. ”
 
Karli Atwell, another lay leader from Har HaShem added, “Joining so many other lay leaders and educators gave us the platform we need to launch this change in our own community.”
 
 
Participating congregations include:
                                                                                        
Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Beachwood, OH
Congregation Har Hashem, Boulder, CO
North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL
Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, PA
Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles, CA
Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough, NJ
Temple Beth El of South Orange County, Aliso Viejo, CA
Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley Hills, MA
Temple Brith Achim, Kind of Prussia, PA
Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA
Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles, CA
Temple Israel, Columbus, OH
Temple Shalom, Dallas, TX
Temple Sholom, Scotch Plains, NJ
 
For more information visit: www.urj.org/bnaimitzvah

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