The synagogue is where Jews are made, where the inConnedividual soul and the community are joined. It is the place where modernity and eternity cross-fertilize, where the seeds of Jewish identity are sown. All other institutions in Jewish life are created by Jews. Only the synagogue creates Jews, child by child, family by family...
Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler
Simchat Torah arrives tomorrow, signaling the end of the High Holy Day season. While delivering a Simchat Torah sermon, a rabbi once remarked, It is fine for us to rejoice with the Torah, but we should also try to conduct ourselves so that the Torah rejoices with us! We cannot rejoice in Torah unless we understand what it stands forthat is part of the work of our sacred community. As Rabbi Schindlers quote above notes, our synagogues are unique in their purpose to create and strengthen Jewish identity, not just in our children but in adult members as well. Now is the time to make a connection to the sacred for our longtime members, as well as new and prospective members that have become part of or are interested in our communities.
In addition, Membership will be a key component of some of the learning sessions at the URJ Biennial convention, taking place just outside Washington, DC, on December 14-18. The Membership-related learning sessions will focus on the three tenets of building community: recruitment, integration and retention. There will also be Idea Exchange Sessions,one of which will befor those of you who are passionate about Membership, Outreach and Caring Community.Join us to learn with and from your North American colleagues and other Membership professionals. I look forward to meeting you there!
May all of you who nurture our sacred communities, who welcome the stranger whether Jewish or not, be blessed in this New Year. May you be inspired by the individuals you encounter in our synagogues and by the Torah that guides us all.
Thanking you all for the vital work you do and for the devotion with which you serve our communities,
Union for Reform Judaism
New Member Workshops
Congregation Rodeph Shalom in New York, NY, developed a yearly, two-session program of New Member Workshops to welcome and integrate new members into temple life through socialization, study and involvement. These sessions fill a real need for the new member who knows very few, if any, people in the congregation. Session one invites clergy and participants to share their Jewish journeys in small groups. Session two includes text study and an orientation to the synagogue.
The Life Cycle of Synagogue Membership
If I could recommend one Membership resource to congregations, it would be The Life Cycle of Synagogue Membership from URJ Books and Music. This revised volume is organized into three parts: membership recruitment, integration and retention. It not only includes diagnostic exercises for the Board of Trustees and your membership committee but also offers programmatic suggestions and best practices, which include: mission statements, sample membership committee structure, tips on successful chavurot groups, new member and exit interviews and suggested ways to honor long time volunteers and reconnect with those members who have become inactive.
Upcoming Opportunities for Your Congregation:
URJ North American Biennial, December 1418, 2011:Have you registered yet for the 2011 URJ Biennial in greater Washington, DC, on Dec. 14-18, 2011? More than 4,000 Reform Jews will attend this formidable gathering. If you have been to a Biennial in previous years, then you know just how special it is. If you havent been to a Biennial yet, its an experience you wont want to miss!
The URJ Biennial is where Reform Jews gather to learn, pray, share ideas, dance and sing, hear from inspiring guest speakers, reunite with old friends, make new connections and make decisions about the policies of the Reform Movement. This Biennial will include some extraordinary events including the largest Shabbat gathering in the world; learning sessions that were created by YOU; renowned speakers; top-notch entertainment; and the chance to network with your peers.
Membership Certification Program, April 19April 22, 2012 Join us in Cleveland for four days of comprehensive training regarding all aspects of Membership: recruitment, integration and retention at the Schindler Fellows Program for Membership Certification. Participants will assess the challenges and strengths of their home congregation and learn best practices from across North America to plan an effective Membership strategy for their synagogue community.
Please note that limited scholarships are available for small, medium and large congregations. For details about the program and scholarship information, contact Kathy at 212.650.4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advertising Grant OpportunityNational Center to Encourage Judaism: The NCEJ will pay half of the cost of your advertising in the secular press, up to $1,200 twice a year, for programs that welcome the unaffiliated, Jewish or not, and invite them to attend beginner-level programs about Judaism, including the URJs Taste of Judaism and Introduction to Judaism classes. Hosting a class or program for those interested in Judaism is an effective way to invite new members into your community!