24, 2013, New York, NY -- The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has awarded grants
to congregations in 17 cities to offer Taste of Judaism ,
a free, three-session class for beginners Jewish or not that explores the
topics of Jewish spirituality, ethics and community values.
A Taste of Judaism is a high-visibility, low-threshold program of liberal
Jewish content designed to pique the interest of all who are searching for an
access point to Jewish life. The class is designed for those who would
like to explore or re-explore the foundations of Jewish tradition and are
looking for an entry into Judaism. The class has been remarkably
successful with unaffiliated Jews, those who are not Jewish but who are
interested in learning about Judaism, interfaith couples and their families and
those considering conversion. A Taste of Judaism has been held in
synagogues across North America since spring 1994. To date, more than 100,000
people have participated in the course.
For the congregations receiving
the grant, the URJ will fund 60 percent or more of anticipated advertising
costs plus a modest honorarium for the instructor. With or without URJ
financial support, all URJ congregations offering A Taste of Judaism receive
training, camera-ready advertisements, a class listing on the URJ's new website for people interested in Judaism, access
to Taste of Judaism administrative documents and more.
"Experience shows that many,
many people coming from truly diverse backgrounds find meaning and purpose by
exploring Jewish life. We are thrilled to help local Jewish communities
open their doors wide and provide this critical entry for all those who are
seeking and will find a connection," said URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi
Before we were married, my husband Matt had very little
knowledge about Judaism . Taste of Judaism was a great first time
exposure for him, said Julie Unger from Boston. Our class was made up of
interfaith couples and individuals who were simply curious about Judaism or
in the process of converting. Matt loved the history piece and especially
wanted to know more about the Jewish holidays and how they were celebrated. It
was only three classes, which was just enough to tickle our taste buds.
The Taste of Judaism program has
been a boon to us in terms of public appreciation and understanding, said Rabbi
Elliot Stevens at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, Alabama.
One Jewish participant who hadnt set foot in
a Jewish house of worship in more than 40 years has now found a home with us,
and his wife is working towards conversion. More than 20 from our Taste
class have continued on with a basic Judaism course, of whom about 15 are also
learning to read basic Hebrew.
Fourteen individual sites have
been chosen as grant winners, and will receive financial assistance from the
URJ toward advertising and classes:
Culver City, CA
Grass Valley, CA
Los Angeles, CA
West Palm Beach, FL
Chevy Chase, MD
Franklin Lakes, NJ
Hilton Head Island, SC
Vancouver, British Columbia
addition, there are four metro areas offering Taste collaboratively and in
partnership with other funders. Three Sarasota, Florida, congregations will
collaborate to bring A Taste of Judaism Are You Curious? to
participants across the city, and will receive a joint grant from the URJ and
Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. In Boston, the A Taste of
Judaism Are You Curious? program is supported by a grant from Combined
Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), which enables the URJ to offer this class at
Reform congregations throughout the greater Boston area.
The URJ and UJA-Federation in New
York will also collaborate on a new initiative, in which A Taste of Judaism
Are You Curious? will be offered to young adults in their 20s and
30s in Manhattan and Brooklyn. While some of the sessions will take place in
congregations, some will take place in coffee shops and other venues. These
classes will enable young adults in New York to pursue their Jewish journeys in
an approachable and casual environment.
the A Taste of Judaism Are You Curious? program is supported
by a generous grant from an anonymous foundation, which enables the URJ to
offer this class at 12 Reform congregations per year throughout Chicago and the
surrounding suburbs. Additionally, classes this year will be held as far
north as Kenosha, Wisconsin, and as far east as Munster, Indiana.
Classes will also be offered
in additional congregations that did not receive the URJ grants,
but will receive administrative support and resources from the URJ. These