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September 2, 2015 | 18th Elul 5775

URJ Provides New Opportunities for Congregations to Share Learning, Interests and Strategies

"Communities of Practice" to Encourage Experimentation in
Congregational Engagement Initiatives

Contact: Annette Powers

January 7, 2013, New York, NY – The URJ announced today three initial “communities of practice” – congregational networking groups – that will provide opportunities for congregations with common interests to share ideas and experiment together with new strategies around the idea of “expanding our reach.”  Participating congregations also will have access to the URJ's Faculty of Expert Practitioners, some of the most renowned thought-leaders in their fields. Thirty-seven congregations were selected to participate in these communities of practice.   
“Across North America, people hunger for real connections. They want – they need – to be part of meaningful communities," said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.  “The URJ communities of practice will organize groups of congregations around the concept of Expanding Our Reach. Reform congregations will have opportunities to work together, take risks, explore new ideas, innovate and have unprecedented access to top experts. Please join us in this holy work as we re-imagine Jewish life together."

These congregations will work together formally for 18 months to push the boundaries of existing congregational efforts, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance along the way, create congregational changes and garner skills that will benefit all areas of congregational life.
“Most communities of practice will learn, experiment and reflect together for 18 months, but the changes they instill and the relationships they build will benefit and help to transform participating congregations well beyond the 18 months of formal assembly,” said URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Jonah Pesner.
The first three communities of practice will focus on ways to expand the reach of their congregations to invite the participation of specific demographic groups. The three communities of practice are:
•         Emerging Young Adult Initiatives
•         Successfully Engaging Young Families
•         Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center

Each community of practice will begin and end with an in-person meeting for congregational staff and lay leadership involved in the initiative.  There also will be monthly virtual gatherings and e-learning opportunities. Finally, results of these strategic experiments will be shared with congregations outside the communities of practice and with the Reform Movement at large.
“We believe that the relationships built among the community of practice participants will support creation and innovation through a new paradigm.  No longer will congregations need to experiment on their own to create change," said Vicky Farhi, co-director of the URJ's Expanding Our Reach. "The consistency of belonging to a committed group – a community of practice – focused on similar areas of interest will encourage congregations to delve more deeply and with long term commitment to transforming their culture. Working together, the network of participants will grapple with challenges and celebrate successes among all of the congregations. “
The communities of practice include the following congregations:
URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Communities of Practice

•         Temple Chai, Phoeniz, AZ
•         Temple Sinai, Toronto, Ontario
•         Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
•         University Synagogue, Los Angeles, CA
•         Temple Shalom, West Newton, MA
•         Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA
•         Temple Rodeph Torah of Western Monmouth, Marlboro, NJ
•         Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD

Successfully Engaging Young Families Communities of Practice

•         Temple Shalom, Dallas, TX
•         Temple B’nai Israel, Oklahoma City, OK
•         Congregation Shir Ami, Castro Valley, CA
•         Congregation Adas Emuno, Leonia, NJ
•         Temple Beth El, Tacoma, WA
•         Temple Beth Torah, Ventura, VA
•         Temple Beth Am, Framingham, MA
•         Temple Emanu-El, Utica, NY
•         Am Shalom Congregations, Barrie, Ontario
•         Beth David Reform Congregation, Gladwyne, PA
•         Congregation B’nai Torah, Highland Park, IL
•         Temple Beth El, Charlotte, NC

Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center Communities of Practice

•         Temple Beth-El, St. Petersburg, FL
•         Temple Emanu-El, Atlanta, GA
•         Temple Sinai, Toronto, Ontario
•         Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ
•         North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL
•         Temple Beth El of Northern Valley, Closter, NJ
•         Congregation B’nai Brith, Santa Barbara, CA
•         Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Ana, CA
•         Congregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, MO
•         Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, NY
•         Temple Shalom, West Newton, MA
•         Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
•         Temple Emanu-El, West Essex, NJ
•         Temple Sinai, Summit, NJ
•         Temple Israel, Columbus, OH

Additional communities of practice will be announced in the coming months, including one called “Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st Century Congregation.” Applications for this community of practice are due on January 18. For more information, contact  Vicky Farhi, URJ's Co-Director of Expanding Our Reach.


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