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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

Board of Trustees Discussion Guide

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. 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.

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. 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.

Guidelines for Communities of Practice Participation:

To be accepted into a community of Practice, a congregation will commit to:
  • Having 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. The Board resolution must be passed and submitted to the URJ for accepted congregations to participate in a community of practice.

  • Filling out and submitting the application to the URJ. The application should be completed by at least one person who will be a team leader for this effort.

  • Budgeting - participating congregation (preferred) and/or individual CoP members are required to cover the costs associated with sending at least two representatives to two in-person gatherings (one at the beginning and one at the end of the process). In addition, strongly encourage participating congregations to send (a) delegate(s) to the URJ Biennial.

    Further, In order to successfully implement the engagement experiment/pilot that the congregation develops through CoP participation, financial support beyond what is currently offered is required to ensure success. This will vary widely from one congregation to the next, but appropriate allocation of financial resources will be necessary.

  • Attendance of team members in all communities of practice gatherings - Strong leadership is the cornerstone to success. Therefore, alongside the congregation’s allocation of financial support, human resources must be dedicated. This includes the designation of participant(s) in the CoP program as well as commitment and time of leadership to successfully roll-out the chosen experiment/pilot initiative.

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:
  • 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 Trustees.

  • 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 practice.
  • 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.

  • Budgeting for covering the costs associated with sending two representatives to two in-person gatherings and with implementing a congregational experiment pilot.

  • Dedicating human resources to the community of practice and making a commitment of time of leadership to successfully roll-out the chosen experiment/pilot initiative.

Additional information can be found at

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