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Congregations increasingly recognize and understand that it is personal relationships that keep members committed and engaged with the community. These relationships – with clergy, staff, and each other – promote a sense of belonging, value, and meaning, and ultimately, an investment in the overall strength and success of the community.
A number of Reform congregations recently received Belin Outreach and Membership Awards or honorable mentions from the URJ for their work to promote authentic, meaningful relationships among members. They are experimenting with various models (and, yes, programs!) that empower congregants to nurture relationships on their own and to connect with others in the larger congregational community.
These peer-to-peer program models encourage congregants to facilitate small-scale programs – sometimes even in their own homes.
Staff-initiated program models developed in several congregations were particularly innovative in their content:
Creating opportunities for members and potential members to gather, meet, and engage with one another in meaningful ways is essential for synagogue success. Thoughtful and innovative initiatives that foster these relationships and connections are sure to enrich the congregations – and the individuals involved in the activities.
The URJ’s Belin Outreach and Membership Awards – funded through the generosity of David Belin, z”l – are presented to up to 16 congregations for initiatives that demonstrate the concept of audacious hospitality by actively welcoming and integrating those new to Judaism, creating relationship-based engagement models, or engaging and retaining members with innovative practices. This post is one in a series highlighting Belin Award-winning programs and the principles that guided their development.
To learn more about audacious hospitality strategies and tools, attend the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial 2015, from November 4-8 in Orlando, FL. With 5,000 attendees from around the world, the Biennial is the largest Jewish gathering in North America. Learn more and register at urj.org/biennial.
At the time this was published, Jessica Ingram was a member of the URJ’s Strengthening Congregations team, and the manager of Communities of Practices.