Todays young adults have an array of ways to connect to Jewish life, making them increasingly invisible within synagogue walls. With limited staff and financial resources, congregations, in turn, struggle to engage this cohort successfully because without them, the rich fabric of Reform Judaisms congregational communities is diminished and the sustainability of our future is endangered.
The URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiatives community of practice seeks to convene congregations that are interested in starting or significantly enhancing their efforts with this cohort, but have not yet done so.
What is the URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiative Community of Practice?
The URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiative community of practice comprises 12-15 congregations with a shared concern and passion for 20s and 30s engagement together with the drive to advance current strategies. Each of these congregations aspires to launch or significantly scale-up the inclusion of young adults in synagogue life, but has, to date, struggled to do so.
During the community of practices 18-month cycle, designated representatives from each congregation will come together to:
Explore Jewish young adult engagement, including why it's important and whats proving successful
Learn from experts in the field
Examine trends and best principles
Discuss broad challenges
Identify experiments and pilots whose rollouts in their own congregations will re-imagine and recreate young adult engagement, enhancing synagogue life for young adults and the congregation-at-large
Build a network of peer support and guidance
Draft and implement an engagement initiative for their own congregation
measurable results within the community of practice and the larger
Reform Movement, providing a foundation on which to build subsequent
initiatives for engaging young adults and enriching other facets of
Coordinated by the URJ, the community of practice will require an initial 18-month commitment beginning in January 2013. The opportunity to continue to work together beyond this timeframe is an option for the member congregations.
Naomi Abelson, Associate Engagement Director - Young Adults (212.650.4162, firstname.lastname@example.org) is the primary coordinator
Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, Co-Director, Expanding our Reach Community of Practice (212.650.4081, email@example.com) is the secondary coordinator
The URJ Emerging Young Adult Initiative Community of Practice curriculum includes five components:
Research/Study of the Field: Monthly webinars and conference calls will enable participants to explore relevant topics, hear from experts, study best principles and explore common challenges.
Experiment Design: From Theory to Visioning: After learning together for a few months, each member of the community of practice will craft an experiment/pilot proposal that challenges the engagement work being done in his or her congregation. With support and guidance of other members, each member will hone the experiments parameters to ensure they include clear vision, goals, process and benchmarks for success.
Experiment Implementation: Getting Our Hands Dirty: In this phase of the curriculum, members will launch the pilot in their own congregation, sharing successes and troubleshooting challenges with support from the full community of practice.
Evaluation: Using the pilots benchmarks for success, congregations will track the accomplishments of the experiment.
Sharing Successes: Community of practice congregations will have ample opportunity to share successes with the Movement-at-large, including at the 2013 URJ Biennial and during other gatherings, as well as on webinars.
Who Should Apply?
URJ congregations must be committed to reaching out to young adults (20s and 30s) in the local community, but not yet implemented a successful strategy to do so. They also must be willing to:
Prioritize young adult engagement by allocating necessary staff, lay, financial and other resources to this endeavor, and
Pioneer strategies for engaging young adults at home in ways that break with traditional and previously used models, and
Share successes and challenges and learn from others who do likewise
Why Should my Congregation Participate?
Transform the ways your synagogue seeks to engage young adults
Strengthen relationships with the larger congregational community
Hone an overarching vision for engaging 20- and 30-somethings in meaningful and fulfilling ways
Design and implement a new initiative that pushes the boundaries of previous outreach and engagement strategies, truly engaging young adults in your community
Your efforts will be highlighted extensively throughout the Reform Movement, enabling other congregations to learn from your efforts
Gain knowledge about the 20s and 30s cohort and discover successful engagement practices for these young adults
Strengthen your professional networks
Successfully create and implement a model of engagement designed specifically for your own congregation, receiving support and guidance throughout from other members of the community of practice
Emerge with a valuable tool kit to use in your congregations next phase of young adult engagement and in other facets of synagogue life
What are the resources needed to participate?
All individual participants will be required to attend two separate in-person gatherings:
Community of Practice Launch Gathering, January 25-27, 2013, Location: Chicago, IL
Community of Practice Culmination Gathering, Spring 2014, Location TBD
Participating congregations should cover the costs associated with sending participants to these gatherings. If this arrangement is not feasible, individual participants may cover these costs, but it is preferable for the congregations to do so.
Participating congregations are strongly encouraged to send at least one (but preferably more) to the URJ Biennial in San Diego from December 11-15, 2013. During this convention, experiments and pilot initiatives will be highlighted for the greater Movement, and there will be opportunities for community of practice group learning as well.
Implementing Your Experiment/ Pilot
Congregations must have adequate financial resources available and allocated to implement the experiment/pilot that will be developed through participation in the community of practice.
Congregations must designate lay and/or professional leaders who will not only participate actively in the community of practice, but also spearhead the congregations effort to successfully implement an appropriate pilot initiative.