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July 24, 2014 | 26th Tamuz 5774

Frequently Asked Questions About
A TASTE OF JUDAISM™

What are the goals of A TASTE OF JUDAISM™?

  1. Whetting the Appetite

    First and foremost, this program gives students a "taste" of what is delicious about Judaism. Like any good taste, its purpose is to whet participants' appetites so that they will explore additional learning opportunities and options for participation within the Jewish community.

    Historically, about 1/3 of participants later enroll in area URJ Introduction to Judaism classes where available, or synagogue adult education offerings. For those seeking conversion, this course can be a catalyst for a connection with area rabbis.

  2. Making the Exploration of Judaism Risk-Free

    A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ is an opportunity to explore Judaism in a
    non-threatening, welcoming environment.

    Because taking the first step is often the most difficult, fraught with fears, this program is designed to make the first step as easy and as risk-free as possible:
    • To enable the student to make a manageable time commitment to the course, it is only three sessions. Further, there are no textbooks and no homework is assigned.
    • To dispel the myth that there is a profit motive, the course is offered free of charge.
    • This is not a course meant to be announced from the bimah and publicized in the Temple Bulletin. The best way to reach the unaffiliated is through mainstream press, social media, and word-of-mouth. The URJ can provide templates and guidance that will help you do all three.
    • The course content is not dependent upon previous knowledge about Judaism. Further, the content of each class is designed to be taught independently so that a student who misses a class won't feel left behind.
  1. Reaching a Diverse Population

    One course and one curriculum reach an amazingly diverse population: individuals interested in reconnecting with their Jewish roots, exploring or re-exploring Judaism, interfaith couples, adult children and grandchildren of interfaith couples, in-laws of Jews, interested Christians not planning to convert ­- anyone seeking more knowledge about Judaism will find this course a good beginning.


What do we need in order to make
A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ successful?

Numerous factors contribute to successful Taste offerings:

  • An engaging and empathetic instructor, most often a congregational rabbi, who understands the many circumstances that bring people to explore Judaism
  • A warm and well-organized program administrator, a volunteer or staff member who will:
    • Place the ads
    • Speak with potential students individually
    • Send registration forms and directions
    • Prepare a class list
    • Collect evaluation forms
    • Follow up with students after the course ends
    • Receive training from and act as liaison to the URJ
  • A welcoming environment, conducive to learning, in an easy-to-reach location, which offers avenues for continued learning within weeks of the conclusion of Taste of Judaism
  • A host congregation committed to both the spirit and the details of the program


Can we create our own ads?

A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ is a branded, trademarked program. We prefer to use ads created by our in-house production department, and this is required if you have received a URJ advertising grant. We require that any materials you produce for this class include the URJ logo and the wording “The Union for Reform Judaism is a proud creator of A TASTE OF JUDAISM™.”

My congregation is excited about offering A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ as part of our ongoing outreach strategy, and we have a wonderful instructor and administrator, who are committed to this program. What can we expect this process to look like?

If you are seeking grant support from the URJ this year, you should plan to check this website in January for the application. Applicants will be notified in March about the URJ’s grant awards  for the following program year.

Whether you receive a grant or not, you will need to start preparing for this class about 8 weeks in advance:

Eight weeks before the class starts you should:

  • Watch our training session (if you are a grant winner, you are required to do so)
  • Familiarize yourself with materials in our resource database
  • Decide who will take the phone calls, designate a phone number and e-mail address for incoming calls (and train additional staff members to answer calls as well, if needed)
  • Request camera-ready ads from the URJ and make arrangements with newspapers for advertising
  • Encourage local newspapers to run stories about A TASTE OF JUDAISM™.

Four weeks before the first class:

  • Ads should start running
  • Registration should open
  • You should recruit volunteers who will serve as greeters in you classes
  • Prepare your follow up form, listing upcoming engagement opportunities in your congregations for participants

One week before the class you should:

  • Send out reminders to all those who have registered
  • Finalize all set up and food arrangements
  • Make copies of handouts for class
  • Print copies of URJ brochures “Becoming a Jew” and “Intermarried? Reform Judaism Welcomes You”

First session:

  • Set up chairs in a circle
  • Bring a snack
  • Have name tags for greeters and class members
  • Have greeters welcome participants

Last session:

  • Pass out your follow up form, and if you are a grantee- also let participants know that you will be sending them the URJ’s feedback form
  • Have a table with information about your congregation and copies of URJ brochures “Becoming a Jew” and “Intermarried? Reform Judaism Welcomes You”

After the Class is Over:

  • Follow up with participants who requested follow up
  • If you are a URJ grantee, make sure you fulfill your grant responsibilities
  • You can also submit a request for an NCEJ grant (whether you did or did not receive a grant from the URJ)

What is the curriculum? Does the URJ provide curriculum materials?

God, Torah and Israel are the pillars of the course curriculum. Each class offers students the opportunity to interact with traditional and contemporary texts and engages the group in discussion and experiential exercises.

The first class, "Spirituality" (God), exposes students to ancient and modern Jewish encounters with God with the pedagogic goal that understanding God and Spirituality is a process and that we Jews are "Yisrael" - the one who wrestles with God.

The second class, "Ethics" (Torah), explores the question, "what does God want of us?" Through the reading of ancient and modern sources, the student will survey Jewish ethical teachings and begin to understand that ethical behavior arises out of our relationship to God.

The final class, "Community" (Israel), looks at texts that explore the Jewish values upon which our community is organized and how we as Jews relate and respond to one another. Additionally, this class helps students to understand how they might connect with the Jewish community following the course.

Within the overall plan, students interact with texts traditional and contemporary on each of the three topics. Teachers are urged to teach from their own strengths and passions. We are pleased to share with you the materials developed by a number of rabbis who have taught A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ before, and we urge you to share any materials YOU may develop, so that we can share them with future instructors!

What does it cost a congregation to offer A TASTE OF JUDAISM™?

It was clear from the outset of our pilot program in 1994 that considerable sums of money must be invested in advertising in the secular press in order to reach unaffiliated Jews, non-Jews and the intermarried. There was – and continues to be – an overwhelming response to advertisements in the secular press about A TASTE OF JUDAISM™. Some communities are seeing success in recent years with online publications and local blogs like the Patch, alongside traditional print advertising.

The cost of placing ads in mainline papers varies. The larger papers, especially in urban areas, may charge considerable fees, but such publicity has proven to be the most successful. See "Publicity Recommendations" for suggestions on how to determine your advertising plan and budget. Based on numbers we've seen in recent years, the median advertising cost in small cities has been $1000-$1500, with smaller or more remote towns costing a few hundred dollars and medium sized cities costing closer to $2000-$2500. Advertising in large cities with multiple congregations collaborating might cost considerably more.

Beyond an investment in advertising, the other expenses you might anticipate are:

  • Copying costs (text handouts, evaluation forms, upcoming class and program lists, welcome brochures) - $65-85 if using an outside print shop like FedEx Kinko's or Office Max.
  • Instructor honorarium - $300

Optional:

  • Some congregations set up a temporary, dedicated phone number for the person who will be handling the intake calls so that callers can hear "A TASTE OF JUDAISM™" when they call ($20-30)
  • Food and beverage - Coffee/tea, small snack (this is a great way to involve volunteers)
  • Venue overhead – Some congregations choose to run the class outside of their regular facility or hours, incurring room rental fees or security fees.

The URJ accepts applications for advertising grants annually. Please bear in mind that the grants only provide reimbursement of up to 2/3 of projected advertising expenses, with a cap of $2,200 per single site, against submitted receipts. A modest $300 honorarium to the instructor is also supplied to grantees. No other programmatic costs will be eligible for reimbursement, even if the congregation will not use its full grant amount towards advertising.

Congregations need to budget for all other costs, and to take into consideration that they will receive reimbursement for their advertising costs only upon fulfilling all grant responsibilities (submitting ad clippings and advertising receipts, filling our instructor feedback form, and having students fill out our feedback survey).

Will you reimburse us for staff time spent on advertising this class?

No. We reimburse winning congregations only for money spent on ad buys. Payment to agencies, consultants or staff placing the ads is not eligible for reimbursement.
While we would like to encourage congregations to submit creative advertising plans, which include advertising on social media- only ad buys will be reimbursed, and only if submitted in the original budget sheet as part of the A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ advertising grant application. Having a staff member or a lay leader manage a Facebook page for the class or post messages via social media is a great idea, but we will not be able to reimburse you for his/her time.

I've heard that A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ is not open to congregants or even to non-Jewish partners of congregants. Is that true?

A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ is an opportunity to explore Judaism in a non-threatening, welcoming environment. Because taking the first step into the "waters of Judaism" is often the most difficult, fraught with a myriad of fears, this program is designed to help make the first step as easy and as risk-free as possible. A number of congregations that have hosted A TASTE OF JUDAISM™ in the past have offered us the feedback that when the class is open to congregants as well as the unaffiliated, those participants who already feel comfortable in the synagogue building or a degree of familiarity with the rabbi have a tendency to speak up and participate more readily, in effect creating an uneven playing field for those unaffiliated participants who are truly taking the first step. As a result we advise congregations to be cautious when setting up their classes to avoid this dynamic, and if they see there is interest within the congregation itself, to offer the class a second time for interested congregants. Rabbis may use their discretion about responding to individual requests from non-Jewish partners in their congregations.

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