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July 8, 2015, New York, NY - Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced today that April Baskin will join the URJ's executive leadership team as Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. Baskin's role is crucial to the ongoing implementation of the URJ's strategic 2020 Vision plan, and the final staffing decision within a realignment of executive roles that is structured around the 2020 Vision's core priorities of Strengthening Congregations, Audacious Hospitality and Tikkun Olam (social justice).
Audacious Hospitality is the URJ's focused effort to engage seekers - Jews who are unaffiliated, under-engaged and in some cases uninspired - in the sacred work of creating a world of wholeness, compassion, and justice. Congregations and other Reform institutions can play an indispensable role in attracting and serving those looking for ways to connect with their Jewish identity. As URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs put it recently, "No more than 50% of North American Jews are members of synagogues at any one time. Unless we change our approach, there is little chance that Jews in their twenties and thirties will even enter the revolving door of synagogue affiliation. Hoping is not a strategy; the Jewish world needs new approaches for engaging the future. Together we will shape the strategies that will broaden and deepen our movement."
In introducing her, Rabbi Jacobs noted that Baskin is "precisely the right person to lead us in shaping those strategies." Her extensive experience includes diversity inclusion, strategic planning, and program development within organizational and national communities. Most recently she served as the national Director of Resources and Training at InterfaithFamily, assisting Jewish professionals and clergy in welcoming and engaging interfaith couples and families, helping them make a stronger connection with Judaism. From 2010 to 2013 she was the national President of the Jewish Multiracial Network, and worked as an administrator at the World Justice Project.
For two years, Baskin was an Insight Fellow at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Her placements as part of this fellowship were at Maryland Hillel, BBYO's HR and professional development department, and Moment Magazine. She participated in the LGBT and Family Diversity Facilitation Training with Keshet, and in Bend the Arc's Selah Leadership Program. As a diversity consultant, program developer, and presenter, she has worked with organizations such as the 92nd Street Y, AmeriCorps, Birthright NEXT, CAJE, Ayecha, JVoices, Jews in All Hues, UC Davis Hillel, Jews United for Justice, and NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. She is a graduate of Tufts University.
"April is both a Reform Judaism ‘insider' and ‘outsider.' She has grown up in and been shaped by our Movement, and personifies our core values. And because she has also worked with other denominations and communities, she is perfectly positioned to lead our work reaching beyond the synagogue walls to Jews who are outside our Movement today, but are looking for deeper engagement that Reform Judaism can offer," said Rabbi Jacobs. "Creating collaboration, coordination and partnerships that reduce barriers is exactly what April's career and life have been all about. She will be a perfect ambassador for the URJ, developing new ideas for bringing community to everyone looking for a richer Jewish life."
"The work of Audacious Hospitality is about outreach and inclusion; if we do Audacious Hospitality well, we will be contributing to our other core priorities and values, by helping foster and sustain vibrant, welcoming congregations, and by leveraging the collective power of our diverse community to make the world more just," said Baskin. "I know how it feels to be embraced by a community, and I also know how it feels to be ignored. I am passionate about Reform Judaism and the Jewish community, which is a source of my personal strength. Our priority for the URJ is to create and facilitate experiences that help individuals journey from feeling like an outsider to a place of feeling empowered." Rabbi Jacobs added, "In today's Jewish world, we must practice such audacious hospitality with the LGBTQ community, multi-racial Jews, Jews with disabilities, and Gen X'ers and millennials-including all those who do not identify as part of the religious community. All of them have much to teach us."
Baskin's appointment was welcomed by leaders across the Jewish and interfaith community.
Jodi Bromberg, CEO, InterfaithFamily: "April Baskin is an inspired choice to be the new Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. At InterfaithFamily, April was constantly thinking about how to effectively train communal professionals who want to engage interfaith families in deep, meaningful ways. She is a forward thinker, and I look forward to great things at the URJ with her in this important role."
Sandy Cardin, President, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation: "We are thrilled to see April at the helm of the URJ's new outreach and engagement initiative. We have long known April as an inspiring leader with a wide-ranging professional skillset, deep commitment to Jewish communal service and passion for social justice and community building. She brings to the URJ a powerful personal story and voice that has the potential to help the Reform Movement reach and engage many more families and adults with a more diverse, inclusive vision for the Jewish future."
Idit Klein, Executive Director, Keshet: "The URJ has made a phenomenal choice in appointing April Baskin as the new Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. As a masterful teacher and trainer, April's understanding of diverse communities - LGBTQ, interfaith, people of color, among many others - will strengthen Jewish life in the Reform Movement and beyond. April is a bold thinker and sophisticated activist who will do justice to this ambitious, indeed, audacious new project."
Toby Rubin, CEO & Founder, UpStart: "Rabbi Rick Jacobs and his URJ leadership team are on a journey worth joining! With the creation of the Audacious Hospitality position and the hire of April Baskin to bring it to life, the URJ is modeling the important role innovation has played in Jewish life throughout the history of our people."
Rev. David Wright, Executive Director, Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston: "Having enjoyed a collaborative and respectful relationship with the Jewish Community for decades, the Black Ministerial Alliance is happy to see April Baskin in this role. From our personal experience with her, we anticipate strengthening our ties as we serve the communities of the future."