Across North America, people hunger for real connections. They want - they need - to be part of meaningful communities. The URJ's new initiative, Expanding Our Reach Communities of Practice, is designed specifically to meet that need. Please join us in this holy
work, as Reform congregations come together, taking risks, exploring new ideas, innovating, refining, retrying, and, ultimately, reimaging Jewish life
(Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism, November, 2012).
As a member of your synagogue's board of trustees, you have the opportunity to join a network of dedicated leaders, your counterparts in Reform
congregations across North America. Communities of practice are defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and
learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Etienne Wenger, Communities of Practice; a Brief Introduction). Learning and working
together creates a supportive community in which participants share their experiences, formulate new ideas and take risks thus often creating new knowledge
for the entire field.
The wisdom of our ancestors informs our thinking as we establish Jewish communities of practice: "Find yourself a teacher and make a friend for life" (Avot
1:6). We believe that by bringing leaders from many congregations together in communities of practice, relationships will be created that will sustain the
work beyond the formal time this group is together. These communities of practice have the capacity to serve as change agents to congregations as they
transform into communities of belonging, meaning and purpose. By partaking in this opportunity, congregations will acquire tools to address this specific
area of interest as well as create a change process to assist them as they focus on additional areas of congregational life.
Much has been written about the need to reimagine the 21st century synagogue and the Reform Jewish community. Judaism places an emphasis on the
importance of learning and what it brings to the individual and community. Pirke Avot teaches us "One that does not learn dies" (Avot 1:13). As a Jewish
people and Reform Jews we must continue to explore both the old and the new to renew our community. This shared passion for engaging congregational
communities provides the foundation for a vibrant Reform Movement
Guidelines for Communities of Practice Participation:
To be accepted into a community of Practice, a congregation will commit to:
Have a board discussion to ensure that the appropriate lay and professional leaders agree to participate and that the congregation will support their
representatives in a community of practice. You may use the specially-designed Board of Trustees Discussion Guide for each community of practice. The
Board resolution must be passed and submitted to the URJ by January 11, 2013 for accepted congregations to participate in a community
Fill out and submit the application to the URJ by December 5, 2012. The application should be completed by at least one person who
will be a team leader for this effort.
Questions for Discussion
- The following questions are designed to guide your board conversation:
How will participation benefit our congregation? Details for individual communities of practice can be found at: urj.org/cong/cop/
Who will lead our work? Who should be participants in this community of practice as representatives of our congregation
? Please note, the URJ recommends that your two representatives are a member of the professional staff and a lay leader who has a seat on the Board of
What are some challenges we may face in participating in this community of practice and how will we overcome those challenge?
Knowing that this is at minimum an 18-month process, do we have the human and financial resources to support this work? This includes in-person
meetings, a congregational experiment and monthly learning.
Sample Board Resolution
The (name of congregation) Board of Trustees (insert appropriate name of your governing body) agrees to participate in the URJ Community
of Practice (name of community of practice here).
We understand that this includes:
a commitment to send two representatives to the initial Community of Practice gathering in Chicago, Illinois, January 25-27, 2013.
an 18 month commitment of our congregation to experiment in (specific area) and share our experiences and learning with other members of the community of
a commitment to send two representatives to the concluding gathering at the end of the 18 month period (location and date to be determined).
an encouragement to attend the Community of Practice gathering at the 2013 URJ Biennial, San Diego.