of nearly 170 applicants, 19 Reform congregations in North America were
selected to receive a URJ Incubator Grant of up to $5,000 from the
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to implement new programs to further
engage current members and attract new members. Learn more about the URJ Incubator Grants.
Attracting Families with Very Young Children
East End Temple/El Emet, New York, NY (225 households; East District)
Shabbat BaGan/Shabbat in the Park
Target Audience: Unaffiliated; Families with very young children
Taking advantage of their urban location, this congregation seeks to attract families from the neighborhood through five monthly outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat services in a nearby park.
Rodef Shalom Congregation, Pittsburgh, PA (1086 households; East District)
The Edible Garden at Rodef Shalom
Target Audience: Early engagement of young families; religious school students; adult congregants; broader Jewish community
Rodef Shalom Congregation will establish an edible container garden and create a Jewish education program for children as well as adults, with an eye toward attracting new member families through the preschool and increasing engagement of current members. This project leverages an expressed local interest in environmental education, existing garden space and the URJ's "Green Table, Just Table" initiative.
Sinai Free Synagogue, Mount Vernon, NY (223 households; East District)
The Sefer Connection: Opening Doors of the Synagogue Through Pages of a Story Book
Target Audience: School-Age Families; Early Engagement
The goal of this project is to offer unaffiliated families in neighboring communities a relevant connection to the life and activities of Sinai Free Synagogue though a combined outreach project using the PJ Library integrated with age-appropriate programming. This is a combined partnership with the URJ and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, with additional funding provided by The Steinhardt Foundation.
Temple Israel, Creve Coeur, MO (1000 households; Central District)
DECC Parent Education Powered by Parent as Teachers (J-PAT)
Target Audience: Early Engagement of young families
Temple Israel in Creve Coeur, MO, seeks to fill a void in the community since funding was cut for a state "Parent as Teachers program. "Parents as Teachers" provided families with a parent educator who provides guidance for parents as they raise their child from birth into the preschool years, including developmental screenings, information about child development and support. We see this as an opportunity to provide a new version of Parents as Teachers for St. Louis Jewish families, said Deutch Early Childhood Center Director Leslie Wolf. We plan to provide the same quality program, while also providing families with Jewish educational resources that will enrich Jewish lives and prepare them for active involvement in the Jewish community as their child grows up. This will attract young Jewish families who may not have otherwise sought out the Jewish community at this point in their lives.
Inclusion – Expanding our Reach
Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles, CA (187 households; West District)
The goal of BCC Live is to provide access to congregational services, educational offerings and cultural events to Jews not physically at the synagogue, via audio, video and internet infrastructure, in real time as well as on YouTube and in archival form.
B'nai Israel Synagogue, Rochester, MN (120 households; Central District)
Outreach to Meet the Spiritual Needs of Jewish Visitors to Rochester, Minnesota
Target Audience: Unaffiliated; Patients and their families
Located adjacent to the Mayo Clinic, the congregation seeks to engage Jewish patients and their families in synagogue life before, during and after treatment at the clinic. Due to privacy regulations, we are unaware of the presence of Jewish patients until they are hospitalized or if some member happens to be in touch with them. This program will proactively reach out to patients and their families to inform them of our presence and to encourage them to initiate their first call to us, said Bnai Israel President Alex Lupu. The project will involve branding, marketing and dissemination of information locally and through the national network of Reform rabbis and lay leaders.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York, NY (1725 households; East District)
Special Needs Worship Services
Target Audience: Special Needs
Rodeph Sholom's Special Needs Worship Services are designed to provide families and children with special needs with the opportunity to worship together in an accessible, inclusive, and sensitive environment. Created in conjunction with a consultant from Music for Autism, this congregation's experience will be a guide to inclusive worship.
Temple Sholom of Chicago, Chicago, IL (1020 households; Central District)
Target Audience: LGBT
Temple Sholom of Chicago will enter a float in the Annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade. A presence at the parade will demonstrate the congregations support of the LGBT community to the crowd of 500,000 spectators. Spectators (most of who live near the temple) will recognize the building replica. The process of planning the program will bolster a developing LGBT affinity group and launch a series of new programs.
Integration and Retention of Current Members
Congregation Bet Ha'am, South Portland, ME (351 households; East District)
Congregation Bet Haam in South Portland, ME will create a Sowing Seeds, Braiding Community program to jump-start their congregation's efforts to engage diverse constituencies from within their community. Volunteers will grow organic ancient, heritage wheat on Bet Ha'am soil. After harvesting the wheat, they will thresh it, make flour and bake challah for the community. They will also plant a crop of winter wheat to make matzah for Passover. We have seen a diverse group of volunteers come forward to care for a sizable new garden created with our new building that has forged new bonds with the Congregation. The Wheat Project will continue to build on this successful platform of engagement and is consistent with our core values of inclusivity, tikkun olam and lifelong Jewish learning, said Bet Haam Garden Committee Chair Toby Rosenberg. We know the Portland area has a culture of passion for gardening, organic growing, supporting community-based agriculture, and this program will appeal to Jews who share that passion.
Congregation B'nai Torah, Antioch, CA (39 households; West District)
Raising our Ritual IQ, Building Community
Target Audience: Unaffiliated; Interfaith
This congregation will hire a Cantor to conduct a Learners Service four times during the year. Working quarterly with a Cantor will enrich their ability to incorporate musical and participatory elements into services on an on-going basis. The Ritual Committee, comprised of members of all ages (including post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students) will act as the Planning Team for this project. Members of the congregation will be invited to lead particular prayers and songs they have learned as a way of building congregational kavanah and ritual capacity on an on-going basis.
Kol HaNeshamah, Seattle, WA (140 households; West District)
Eilu V'Eilu: Kol HaNeshamah's Progressive Yeshivah
Target Audience: Post B'nei Mitzvah who want more depth; Serious learners
This Yeshivah's participants - liberal and progressive Jewish men and women, post Bar/Bat Mitzvah teens - will engage in deep, thoughtful study and discussion on topics of concern to the congregation in particular as well as to the future of Judaism and the Jewish People as a whole. The Yeshivah will operate in 'real' time - i.e. in-person sessions, as well as in 'virtual' time online.
Temple Israel, Columbus, OH (600 households; Central District)
The overarching goal of this initiative is to empower board members to create deeper relationships within the synagogue community, relationships between trustees and congregants and among members of the congregation. Each board trustee will be assigned a group of 30 households and is responsible for active and ongoing contact and relationship-building with every household in his/her group. Trustees will be trained and will receive ongoing support over the course of the year.
Young Adults 20s/30s
Judea Reform Congregation, Durham, NC (617 households; South District)
Judea Reform at Your Fingertips: MobileJRC
Target Audience: originally Young Adults, now anyone with a Smart Phone
Judea Reform Congregation will create and launch an application for handheld mobile devices that will include a calendar, photos and videos, daily meditations, a blog, an online tzedakah box, a reading list and more. The goals for Judea Reform at Your Fingertips are multiple: engagement with the Millennial cohort; membership engagement generally; community building; communication; branding; and the creation of a pilot app for other URJ congregations to build on.
North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL (1400 households; Central District)
Beyond and Back (B&B)
Target Audience: Young adults in their early to mid-twenties
This congregation seeks to engage 20-somethings returning to their home town after college in a new way. Programs will meet the target population where they are - out of the synagogue. The showpiece will be a comprehensive spiritual identity and leadership development program, along with real opportunities to reconnect with the synagogue through mentoring teens on youth retreats.
Kol Chadash, Solon, OH (60 households; Central District)
Exciting Destinations, Jewish Explorations
Target Audience: Unaffiliated; Interfaith
This new, growing congregation of predominantly interfaith families has seen some early success with programs outside the synagogue walls. This year-long series of family-friendly "destination" programs will include Jewish ritual and/or learning, such as Tu BiShvat at the Holden Arboretum and Rock'n Havdalah at the Cleveland Rock Gym.
Temple Israel of Catskill, Catskill, NY (80 households; East District)
Plan to further reestablish a Reform Jewish Presence in a rural community
Target Audience: Unaffiliated
Grant funds will support a number of programs that can be sustained with little additional ongoing cost, such as a Jewish film series, a speaker series, and holiday workshops. With the purchase of a flat-screen TV and ancillary equipment, this small, rural congregation will upgrade programming to maintain the momentum generated by growing their membership by 83% over the past 20 months.
The Missing Males
Temple Micah, Washington D.C. (500 households; East District)
Target Audience: Teenage boys
"MiTY Guys" is designed to build a Jewish community of young men by exploring cultural, Jewish, and personal notions of masculinity. Each monthly session for teenage boys will feature a communal meal, social time, substantive and engaging Jewish learning, and plenty of activity. Some offsite and co-ed events will also take place, linking to the broader teen community.
The Community Synagogue, Port Washington, NY (650 households; East District)
Maccabia Sports Day
Target Audience: School-Age families; boys; dads
The excitement of Maccabia Sports Day will be a catalyst to engage children and their families in the bigger picture of an ongoing sports program in partnership with the JCC. Games and sports for children from pre-school age through young teens, along with a barbecue/picnic-style lunch, will provide a platform for social connections for the children and their parents.
Empty Nesters/Baby Boomers/Seniors
Temple Sinai of North Dade, North Miami Beach, FL (530 households; South District)
Empty Nester Engagement/Re-Engagement Program
Target Audience: Empty Nesters
When Empty Nesters expressed an interest in Jewish-themed events that were not worship-centric or child-centric, this congregation responded. A committee of stakeholders put together a calendar of events including a Shabbat dinner discussion series, mitzvah projects, cultural events, and Shabbaton.
One grant was offered and later declined, due to other urgent priorities for the staff of the congregation during the implementation time frame. The proposal was for the online use of video and webcasting in Jewish identity building.