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Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154
New York, NY; May 22, 2016 -- Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) today launched the JewV’Nation Fellowship, an innovative year-long project incubator and leadership development program supporting emerging Jewish leaders and creative interfaith outreach initiatives. The program, which will begin in early 2017, is supported in part with a Jewish Funders Network grant from Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families, in honor of 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas.
The JewV’Nation (pronounced “juvination”) Fellowship program will be led by April Baskin, URJ’s Vice President of Audacious Hospitality, and seeks to engage a new generation of leadership by valuing the perspectives and insights of the younger members of the community and supporting them with resources and strategies to bring their best ideas to life. The fellows themselves will define and create exciting and contemporarily relevant Jewish programming.
The JewV’Nation Fellowship will incubate up to 10 creative Jewish community-building projects that meet the needs and spark the interest of people who are intermarried or in interfaith relationships. The projects must embody the compelling values of Jewish tradition, sharing its wisdom, power, and beauty, encouraging every person to find their very own authentic expression of Judaism. The first cohort of the JewV’Nation Fellowship will be based in New York City.
“Recent research proves that interfaith outreach to millennials works. When we find creative ways to reach Jews from intermarried backgrounds, they identify, they participate, and they help shape the Jewish future. The JewV’Nation Fellowship is an exciting and powerful new path for the URJ to bring more people closer to the core of Jewish life,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, URJ President. “The JewV’Nation Fellowship is a totally new model. We will incubate the best and brightest leadership talent and we are eager to help identify, nurture, and learn from these emerging Jewish leaders, teachers, and friends.”
“I know firsthand that coming from an intermarried family and being fully engaged in Jewish life are not mutually exclusive,” said Baskin. “The JewV’Nation Fellowship is unique because we’ll be developing organic programming models that are co-constructed by the population we seek to serve -- intermarried couples and young adults from intermarried families. The JewV’Nation fellows will be powered by their diverse personal narratives, passion for social justice, and commitment to building a lasting community whose diversity strengthens Jewish life.”
Projects will be evaluated through a competitive process with criteria including contribution to Jewish life and increasing inclusion of intermarried couples and families; impact and reach; replicability, scalability, and sustainability. Projects must include low-barrier, high-impact opportunities that strengthen Jewish identity and values, and increase the number of Jewish choices made by the projects’ program participants in the short- and long-term. Since Jews today are diverse with multi-dimensional (“Jewish and…”) identities, there will be a special focus on projects that, in addition to primarily serving intermarried couples, will also intersect with Jewish diversity (e.g. LGBTQ Jews, Jews of color, Jews from interfaith families—all of whom are statistically more likely to be in intermarried relationships).
Because URJ leads the largest and most diverse Jewish movement in North America, with almost 900 congregations reaching nearly 1.5 million people, the JewV’Nation Fellowship offers projects a significant opportunity for national exposure and scaling. Projects will have access to the resources of the URJ, including training in leadership, program development, community organizing, and fundraising.
As part of URJ’s 2020 vision, Audacious Hospitality is a transformative spiritual practice rooted in the belief that we will be a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community when we fully welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.