5 Ways That A Taste of Judaism® Can Strengthen Your Congregation

Inside Leadership

5 Ways That A Taste of Judaism® Can Strengthen Your Congregation

Most everyone knows that Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, and a host of other celebrities are interested in Kabbalah, the mystical interpretation that’s part of Jewish tradition.

But what about the young man who wants to learn the basics of Judaism because his fiancée is Jewish? Or the longtime seeker who’s curious to explore what draws her to our ancient faith? Or the grandparents whose daughter and son-in-law are raising Jewish kids – something the grandparents know nothing about?

A Taste of Judaism® class may fit the bill perfectly – for them and for your congregation.

Designed for people who have little or no Jewish background but are interested in learning about Judaism, A Taste of Judaism® is offered in URJ member congregations throughout North America. In addition to introducing the basics of Judaism to participants, the three two-hour classes – commonly taught over three consecutive weeks by a congregation’s rabbi or other qualified synagogue professional – offer numerous benefits to host congregations.

Here are five ways hosting a Taste course can help you strengthen your congregation, along with some of the terrific feedback instructors and participants have shared their Taste experiences:

1. You’ll broaden your reach.

A Taste class will help you reach and engage newcomers, spiritual seekers, and “nones,” as well as unaffiliated Jews. Rabbi Johanna Hershenson of Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend, OR, says the class she taught had “a really nice dynamic,” bringing together students of varying backgrounds: disenfranchised Jews, curious individuals from other faith backgrounds, people interested in conversion, and interfaith couples.

“I was surprised at the percentage of Jews who used this course as an entrance back into the Jewish community,” says Rabbi Alan Litwak of Temple Sinai in North Miami Beach, FL. “The entire group was really interested in learning, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this course.”

Leah Schaer, director of religious education at Temple Or Hadash in Ft. Collins, CO, adds, “As a facilitator, I found it to be a fabulous, exciting, and motivational opportunity and – best of all – wonderful to meet new people in our community.”

2. You'll help create a wonderful community.

Many Taste participants continue to stay in touch long beyond the class’s timeline and the confines of the classroom. Rabbi Randi Musnitsky, who led a class at Temple Har Shalom in Warren, N.J., says, “We began as individuals who came for many different reasons, but we ended as a small community! It was truly a joy and most inspiring to teach this class.”

3. You'll introduce students to your congregation.

Though Taste students are under no obligation to affiliate with the host congregation, the class is a great way to introduce them to opportunities within your community. Rabbi Jeffrey Ronald of Temple Beth El in Glens Falls, N.Y., reports that nearly half of the students in his Taste class continued into the congregation’s Intro to Judaism class.

And Rabbi Bradd Boxman of Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland, FL, says, “Taste participants were thirsty for knowledge and connection, and they followed up by attending services and other events at our synagogue. We are reaching back to the students in the class to invite them to our community seder.”

4. You’ll have a little help from your friends (at the URJ).

Because curricular materials and print-ready ads are provided to all Taste instructors, you don’t have to spend tons of time planning what to teach or how to teach it. Says Rabbi Matthew Berger of Congregation Beth Sholom of the Woodlands in The Woodlands, TX, “The course outlines and bibliographies provided by the URJ were a great starting point, and the easy-to-use ads certainly helped.”            

5. You'll demonstrate your community’s audacious hospitality.

Taste classes provides incomparable opportunities to highlight your congregation’s work and its commitment to audacious hospitality. Here are just a few comments from Taste students who found deep personal meaning in their class participation:

  • “The class warmed my soul. I love the community aspect of Judaism.”
  • “The rabbi created a lot of curiosity during classes. I also attended a worship service and found people very friendly and accommodative.”
  • “I am now more interested in learning more about the temple and getting involved.”
  • “I got a good overview and confirmation that I need to be re-connected to my Jewish faith through taking classes and joining a synagogue. This is my religion, and I have always loved it, even though I have been away from it for a long time.”

Join an information session for A Taste of Judaism® program administrators and faculty by signing up here. Use this form to learn more and to request marketing support, including customized ads, micro grants for social media ads that we place on your behalf ($300), and a class listing on ReformJudaism.org

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Frieda Hershman Huberman is the manager of New York/New Jersey Introduction to Judaism courses for the Union for Reform Judaism, and a member of Temple Emeth in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Frieda Hershman Huberman

Published: 4/04/2016

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