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August 23, 2014 | 27th Av 5774
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Priorities of the URJ

Mission: The Union for Reform Judaism inspires individuals and nurtures dynamic, compelling Jewish communities of sacred purpose.

Strategic Objectives

  • Catalyzing Congregational Change
  • Engaging the Next Generation
  • Expanding Our Reach
Catalyzing Congregational Change

The URJ catalyzes congregational change by assembling and sharing best practices, effective tools, and proven methods and models, including:

Congregational Network Teams personalize the relationship between the Union and its congregations by identifying ways the Movement can best support the needs of each synagogue. Through regular dialogue between Network Team members and congregational leaders--both professional and lay--the six Network Teams connect similar congregations (based on size and  geography) to one another, to resources, and to thought leaders.

  • The rabbinic director on each Network Team works closely with the CCAR and other professional placement groups.
  • Mid-sized congregations, our largest cohort, connect and convene through one of four Geographic Leadership Teams (East, South, Central and West)
  • Smallest Congregations relate through a network tailored to their unique needs
  • Largest Congregations are similarly networked to address their particular concerns 

The Knowledge Network provides meticulously researched answers to your inquiries about Reform Jewish and congregational life.

  • URJ staff is ready to help you, by phone at 1.855.urj.1800, or by email at urj1800@urj.org to answer your inquiries quickly and completely.
  • Working with staff experts at the URJ, and various Corps of Experts comprised of current and former temple board members, presidents, clergy and staff members from throughout the Reform movement, the Knowledge Network staff has immediate access to the expertise that will make our answer to your inquiry meaningful and helpful.

The Tent is the online platform of the URJ Knowledge Network. Built in Microsoft Sharepoint, The Tent will enable leaders throughout the Reform movement to communicate, to collaborate, to share, and to learn in new, vibrant ways.

  • Group and community sites enabling users to communicate in listserv type conversations.
  • Searchable resource libraries encouraging sharing of expertise and collaboration on documents and projects.
  • Social networking, encouraging new relationships and conversations.

Communities of Practice provide opportunities for congregations to work with other congregations facing similar challenges, as well as with expert faculty.  Through intensive in-person learning, virtual work, and experimentation with potential solutions, congregations will address one specific element of synagogue life that is of concern.  These Communities of Practice are underway:

Plans are in place to launch these Communities in the future:

  •  Worship Revitalization
  •  Learning
  •  Israel Engagement

Faculty of Expert Practitioners is an assembly of trailblazing professionals from congregations and exemplary institutions throughout and beyond the Jewish world, including the URJ and HUC-JIR, who speak at gatherings, host webinars, and contribute to Communities of Practice and The Tent on these and other topics:

  • Learning
  • Outreach/Belonging      
  • Youth  
  • Leadership       
  • Sacred Management
  • Social Justice
  • Sacred Community
  • Israel Engagement
  • Worship/Spirituality

 

Other Resources: The URJ also offers an array of other resources to assist congregations in building, maintaining and enhancing their capacities:

  • Leadership development opportunities through professional affiliates, the Scheidt Seminar, which has trained 600+ congregational presidents and the Shallat Rabbinic Transition Program and Retreat
  • Professional placement and pension benefit plans
  • Rabbinic placement and transition services
  • Challenge grants to seed innovation and catalyze change
  • Crisis management for everything from natural disasters to unexpected transitions
  • RJ Web Builder, a website hosting platform used by more than 350 congregations
  • Social media boot camp, a social media training initiative in which more than 200 congregations participated
  • Bulletin Bytes newsletter for congregational bulletin editors featuring  camera-ready ads and more
  • Marketing webinars on public relations, blogging, social media, website development
  • Ten Minutes of Torah email, which reaches 24,000+ subscribers daily
  • Biennial, a five-day Reform Movement convention featuring study, worship, music, speakers, plenary sessions and more, designed to bring the Reform Jewish family together to celebrate and chart its course for the future
  • URJ Books and Music, which publishes Reform liturgy, choral music, sacred texts and literature
  • Connection with the Progressive Movement in Israel and around the world through ARZA and IMPJ as well as URJ's membership in WUPJ
  • ReformJudaism.org, the first website to approach Jewish life, practice, learning, and social justice from a modern Jewish perspective.  
  • HUC-JIR trained rabbis, cantors and educators, who are employed in more than 800 URJ congregations
  • HUC-JIR students who fill professional roles in nearly 400 URJ congregations
  • Mishkan T'filah, the CCAR siddur, which is used by more than one million Jews
  • Mitkadem Digital, part of the URJ curriculum that allows students to learn at their own pace, in school, at home, or anywhere they have a computer
  • Nearly 600 lay and professional leaders who have been specially trained in outreach and membership initiatives
  • Taste of Judaism courses (more than 75,000 participants during the last 18 years)
  • Holiday programs and resources
  • North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY)
  •  Reform Judaism magazine, the quarterly publication of the Reform Movement, which is mailed to every household affiliated with a Reform congregation
  • Representation on legislative issues and social justice outreach via the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • URJ Camps and Israel Programs
Engaging the Next Generation

The URJ has a number of initiatives in place to engage the next generation of Reform Jews.

The Campaign for Youth Engagement is a focused, strategic effort to leverage the full strength and talent of every corner of the Reform Movement to engage and retain the majority of our youth by the year 2020.  We will do so by:

  • Cultivating human resources: Investing in people who work with our youth and families, providing training, a career path and a valued staff role, and strengthening the status of the field.
  • Cultivating partnerships: Building community and relationships as primary goals in all we do in our institutions.
  • Cultivating opportunities: Offer immersive Jewish experiences and forge institutional connections to ensure smooth transitions for youth and families as they develop and navigate their own Jewish journeys.
  • Learn more about the campaign. 


And existing youth opportunities:

  • Nearly 600 congregations have URJ campers
  • 10,000+ campers attend 13 URJ summer camps annually (a14th opens in 2014)
  • Five hundred congregational youth groups in 19 NFTY regions
  • Nearly 6000 teens attend NFTY regional events annually
  • More than 2300 teens from 300+ congregations participate in URJ Israel programs, including Birthright Israel and study abroad programs each year
  • 2000+ high schools students trained annually in legislative advocacy and Jewish values in Washington, DC
  • Educational Curricula for all age levels- Hebrew curriculum for religious school students, which explores grammar, vocabulary and Jewish values through the lens of prayer.
  • Read more about youth engagement on our blog
Expanding Our Reach

The URJ offers resources to help congregations engage and welcome individuals from all backgrounds, including interfaith families, LGBT individuals and families, 20s and 30s, and other non-traditional members.

Interfaith Initiatives: For more than 30 years, the URJ has been developing innovative resources to help individuals, interfaith couples and families, particularly the non-Jewish partner, feel more comfortable in a Reform setting. We work to empower people to make Jewish choices for themselves and their families and strive to provide resources to inform educated decisions.

Engaging 20s and 30s:  Today, people are marrying and having children later than ever before. The reasons that young adults affiliated with a congregation have changed. The URJ is working on initiatives with such partners as Birthright Next, Hillel and others to help make people in their 20s and 30s an integral, active part of congregational life.

Older Adults:  Reform congregations throughout North America are facing the challenge of a changing congregational demographic. Never before has our membership included such a large proportion over the age of 50. How do we retain these older members once their children no longer bind them to temple life? The URJ is working with synagogues are learning more and more how to capture the interests and tap the energy of this growing segment of their membership.

LGBT Individuals and Families:  The URJ offers congregations advocacy resources, ideas and more about how to welcome the LGBT community into your congregation.

 Expanding Our Reach Resources include:

 
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