Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice

by Nancy Manewith

It all began with an amazing meeting – a discussion, really – with Susan Zukrow, the URJ’s project director for the Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative (CEELI). This new program, funded by the Crown Family Philanthropies and facilitated by the URJ, brings together 12 cross-denominational Jewish early childhood centers from the Chicago area to strengthen their work of engaging young children and their families through program excellence, while building and sustaining meaningful relationships. Though not an educator herself, Susan painstakingly took the time to learn the history and workings of the Chicago Metro area’s Jewish early childhood community, in order to lead this groundbreaking early engagement leadership initiative.

For the past 18 months, the URJ supported three “Communities of Practice,” cohorts of congregations that came together to learn, discuss, and experiment in a specific field. Members from participating congregations have been asked to reflect about their process.

by Dr. Paula Sayag

As an early childhood consultant with Washington, D.C.’s central Jewish education agency, I had the privilege of interacting with Jewish educators on a national scale, learning about trends in Jewish communal involvement, and helping congregations respond to large-scale concerns. Still, I didn’t have the opportunity to put into practice the advice I was offering other educators – or, more importantly, to build close relationships with the families that educators serve. So I decided to become a school director.

I started working at the early childhood center in Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, MD, in July 2009. Unfortunately, it was the first time in 20 years that classes weren’t filled. It was challenging to learn the ins-and-outs of a new community, gain their trust, and begin to envision the future for a school with decreased enrollment, a declining economy, a reduced budget, and changing neighborhood demographics.

For the past 18 months, the URJ supported three “Communities of Practice,” cohorts of congregations that came together to learn, discuss, and experi

For the past 18 months, the URJ supported three “Communities of Practice,” cohorts of congregations that came together to learn, discuss, and experiment in a specific field. Members from participating congregations have been asked to reflect about their process.

by Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg and Adam Freedman

Judaism is constantly evolving, addressing new challenges and needs, and a key aspect of synagogue life is setting a vision for tomorrow. Consistent is our yearning to plant seeds for the next generation, but that pathway to doing so is often unclear.

This yearning pushed us at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto to prioritize congregational programming that would engage and inspire young Jewish adults. We joined the URJ’s Emerging Young Adult Initiatives Community of Practice (“CoP”) in order to explore best practices for addressing the needs of our young adult cohort and to connect with congregations facing parallel concerns. This initiative brought together seven Reform congregations for an 18-learning month process. We learned from experts in the field of young adult engagement, supported and drew support from the other congregations in the cohort, and launched a pilot to apply our learnings to our congregational needs and landscape. We viewed the CoP as a means to invest in our congregation’s continuing history.