finance

finance

Pink piggy bank sitting atop piles of money

When it is time to think about budgeting and spreadsheets, or when banks or interest rates are discussed at board meetings, I feel lost. And I hate that feeling.

Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman
Person with a pen in hand using a calculator

When I signed up for the URJ’s Congregational Finances Course to prepare for my new role as president, I never imagined I’d find sacred partnership in that online course.

Heidi Schell
Alarm clock on dresser; woman awake in bed in the middle of the night

As a leader – volunteer or professional – in a synagogue, what keeps you up at night? What do these concerns tell us about the contemporary Jewish landscape?

Michael H. Goldberg

Nearly every congregation today faces the challenge of trying to increase or stabilize revenue, so it’s no surprise that in the last few weeks alone, the Jewish press published three separate pieces on the subject:

And that’s not all.

Amy Asin

Is your congregation ready to learn and innovate? Are you prepared to grapple with challenging but important issues and questions, but aren’t quite sure where to begin?

The URJ is thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the URJ Communities of Practice, and we invite your congregation to apply. Communities of Practice (CoPs) are an opportunity for your congregation to come together with others around a topic of shared interest. For 18-24 months, participating congregations will learn from experts in the field, ask big questions, share ideas and best practices, apply these lessons through experimentation, and as a result, strengthen their communities.

We have been so inspired by stories we’ve heard from synagogues across North America that have been transformed by their involvement in past CoPs. One such story comes from Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley, CA, a small congregation that realized it was uniquely positioned to fill the needs of young, unaffiliated families seeking a Jewish community. As they worked to support these families, the congregation expanded in membership and in self-identity. Read more of their powerful story.

by Amy Asin and Lisa Lieberman Barzilai

Two years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism launched its Communities of Practice (CoP) initiative. We began with five separate cohorts, comprising lay and professional leaders from congregations throughout North America:

  • Pursuing Excellence in Your Early Childhood Centers
  • Engaging Families with Young Children
  • Engaging Young Adults
  • Reimagining Financial Support
  • Revolutionizing B’nai Mitzvah Engagement

During the course of 18-24 months and with guidance from URJ staff, each cohort came together to learn from experts in the field and from each other, ask big questions, and share ideas and best practices. Leaders from nearly 90 congregations participated in the five inaugural CoPs, and more than 75% of them have since launched pilots to apply newfound knowledge in their own communities.

Throughout the process, we developed significant intellectual capital, and gained important insights about how CoPs strengthen and enrich congregations. Here are five important lessons learned.

In the fall of 2008, I was the executive director of a 1,000-household synagogue. We had recently finished a major sanctuary renovation, and our membership numbers were on an encouraging upward trend. Our finances were sound, and we had big plans for the year ahead. The new president of our board was writing her first Yom Kippur appeal as I was busily taking care of the last details of our High Holiday preparation.

Then, two weeks before Rosh HaShanah, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, after which the bank loan market crashed. Banks large and small suffered huge losses, and during the first week of October, the stock market experienced a sharp downward spiral. That week was was Kol Nidre, and our president ascended the bimah (pulpit) to deliver an appeal for donations on the very day on which many in our congregation had lost a significant amount of money – money they were counting on for homes, for retirement, for food.

The president delivered a masterful appeal that evening, and even on that worst of economic days, we collected Yom Kippur appeal monies in excess of what we had collected the previous year. The next day, on Yom Kippur, the stock market fell 700 points, sending the entire country into a recession that, some would argue, continues to this day.