January 27, 2013, Chicago, IL - At a three-day conference held this week at the Intercontinental Chicago O'Hare Hotel, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
officially launched three of the initial "communities of practice" -
congregational networking groups - focused on "expanding our reach."
The Chicago gathering allowed congregational staff and lay leadership from 32 participating congregations to begin building relationships and sharing ideas
about congregational experimentation in the areas of:
The congregations in these three communities of practice will work together formally for the next 18 months to push the boundaries of existing
congregational efforts, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance, learn from
URJ's Faculty of Expert Practitioners, make changes in their congregations and garner skills that will benefit multiple areas of congregational life.
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs worked with each group on creating a culture of change in their congregations and
Amy Asin, a member of the URJ Faculty, led workshops on experimentation and evaluation.
Participants also enjoyed a Saturday morning Shabbat service led by Rabbi Jacobs, with musician Alan Goodis of Chicago.
"The gathering in Chicago was inspiring," said URJ's Co-Director of Expanding Our Reach Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE. "Representatives from these 32
congregations came together with open minds and open hearts to engage in learning from experts and one another. The relationships established during the
weekend will support the experimentation that will be initiated in each congregation. These congregations will be our leaders in creating new knowledge
about the subjects studied."
The following congregations participated in the inaugural event:
Temple Sinai, Toronto, ON
North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL
Temple Beth El of Northern Valley, Closter, NJ
Temple Sinai, Summit, NJ
Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, NY
Temple Beth-El, St. Petersburg, FL
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ
Congregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, MO
Temple Emanu-El, Atlanta, GA
Temple Israel, Columbus, OH
Temple Akiba, Culver City, CA
Congregation B'nai Brith, Santa Barbara, CA
Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
Temple Shalom, West Newton, MA
Temple Emanu-El, West Essex, NJ
University Synagogue, Los Angeles, CA
Beth Israel, San Diego, CA
Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD
Temple Rodeph Torah of Western Monmouth, Marlboro, NJ