While congregants are busy fitting in one last vacation getaway, late summer is a time when congregational staff and volunteers are busy preparing for the upcoming program year. With the High Holy Days and the school year both right around the corner, many people who are not members are surfing your website and gathering the courage to make their first phone call to your office. This issue of Talking Outreach is designed to help you make that first contact pleasant, and just one of many, many more to come.
As always, we are here to assist you and your congregations. Dont hesitate to call on us.
Rabbi Victor Appell
Marketing, Outreach and New Communities Specialist
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Defining the Role of the Non-Jew Brings Clarity and Community
Congregational leaders are often concerned about examining and defining the role of the non-Jew in the synagogue. They are concerned that a non-Jewish spouse or partner may feel unwelcome if their role in the congregation is more limited than that of a Jewish member. This doesnt have to be the case. Consider this your opportunity to reframe the conversation and examine the role of both non-Jewish and Jewish members within your congregation. Read more>>
First Time Calls Peak during Late Summer
As the summer winds down, the start of the school year and the High Holy Days approach. This tends to prompt many unaffiliated Jews and potential Jews-by-Choice to make their first phone call to a synagogue. Because its their first call, its important that the experience be a good one. Beyond Shalom: Your Synagogue's Office Guide to Connecting with Warmth and Welcome can help you and your congregations staff and volunteers ensure that tentative, first-time callers feel welcomed, engaged and encouraged to call again! Read more>>
Twenty-Two New Conversion Fellows Return to Congregations Ready to Work
Another cohort of participants of the Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification have gone back to their home congregations after four days of learning, workshops, presentations, role-playing and small group sessions. With 22 participants, this was one of our largest groups to come together to learn how to help create a culture of conversion in their congregations and how to assist non-Jews on their journey to Judaism. Read more>>
Join us in 2013 for the next cohort of Conversion Fellows. Next year, in 2012, study with us at the Schindler Fellows Program for Interfaith Family Certification. Learn how to create a culture which supports Outreach in your congregation. And, continue your Outreach education at this years Biennial, with a variety of learning sessions covering Outreach topics such as Creating a Home for the Non-Jew in Your Community, When Intermarriage Touches Your Life, Different Faces at our Table: Welcoming the New Jewish Family and many more!
URJ Incubator Grants
Congregations Use Technology to Help People Connect While Traveling
We really wanted to make sure that someone who doesnt use a computer or have access to a computer would be able to access the [worship] service, says Felicia Park-Rogers, Executive Director of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) in Los Angeles of their Telephone Minyan. Read more about how the telephone minyan got started, and about what it has meant to one traveling congregant. If you want to know how to audio-broadcast your services over a phone line, read the technical specifications here.
Park-Rogers, the winner of several awards for her work in the LGBT community, wrote one of twenty winning URJ Incubator Grant proposals to expand the use of technology at BCC to include video streaming. People have found something really meaningful here and it brings so much to our congregation. And we want to give them opportunities for prayer, for study, for community I am hopeful that there will be people who will find their way to Judaism through this.
Theres an App for That Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, North Carolina, was awarded an Incubator Grant to develop a mobile app for Apple and Android platforms that would enable congregants and potential congregants to connect to the congregation from wherever they are. Executive Director Joyce Gordon explains, We were very deliberate about thinking about cultivating stakeholders, both because we wanted input how will this be used and also because we wanted the buy in. We will also use this group for beta testing and also for spreading the word. [Our focus group testers] brought up issues we had not thought of. We realized we had to back off some things and had to develop others.
The app, MobileJRC, will not only enable people to search the synagogue calendar online and to register and pay for congregational events online, but also to find trusted Jewish content. Some of the people weve talked to have really young children and havent aged into the religious school yet. We know they want to be active, [and] are looking for knowledge, which is gratifying for us as a congregation that seeks to provide knowledge. They are looking for a trusted place to find [answers to common questions]: Im going to my friends sons bris, and I had a daughter. What do I bring? Or, My step-mother is not Jewish, do I send her a Christmas card? I think about our mission as an organization that is committed not just to worship but also to education, and I think [our mission] is really going to be fulfilled through this project.
MobileJRC is being designed with other congregations in mind. Once successfully launched, other URJ congregations will be able to re-skin the app (with their logo, calendar and similar content) for their own use at a fraction of the cost of building an original app.