“Audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so people don’t feel excluded. It’s an ongoing invitation to be part of community – and a way to spiritually transform ourselves in the process.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
President, Union for Reform Judaism
Audacious Hospitality, a pillar of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), is based on the belief that when we welcome and incorporate fully the diversity that is a reality of modern Jewish life, we create a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community. Indeed, congregations of all sizes throughout the URJ promote audacious hospitality with creative, original, and outstanding initiatives that welcome seekers and engage prospective and current members.
If this sounds like your congregation, apply for a Belin Award! The application deadline is April 3.
Generously funded by David Belin, z’l, the inaugural chair of the URJ-CCAR Joint Commission on Outreach, the Belin Awards offer an opportunity to highlight and reward some of the most innovative and inspiring initiatives in our congregations. Eight winning congregations will receive a $1,000 cash award and recognition at the 2017 URJ Biennial to be held in Boston, MA, in December.
Here are just a few examples of award-winning entries from the recent past:
- Congregation Har Hashem in Boulder, CO, created “Neighborhood Groups” to connect and build social relationships among members living in the same geographic area. Led by neighborhood “captains,” activities focused on holiday celebrations such as sukkah parties, Shabbat picnic dinners, and hamantaschen baking. Over time, these relationships prompted hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger) and g’milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), initially among groups’ members at life cycle moments and then in the broader community. One group, for example, undertook a tikkun olam (repairing the world) project, sponsoring a shelf at a local food bank for a year.
- Seeking to connect Houston’s Jewish professionals to each other and create community among the denominations, Congregation Emanu El in Houston, TX, developed “JED Talks.” Taking its name from the well-known TED Talks, JED is an acronym for Jews Entertaining their Dreams. Each event features food and wine, as well as a short JED Talk followed by questions and answers. Past speakers include a Taekwondo Olympiad, an attorney who fights human trafficking, an accomplished harpist, and an art gallery owner. JED Talks also support the community’s local businesses, artists, and young professionals.
- Central Synagogue of Nassau County in Rockville Centre, NY, organized “430 DeMott,” a reference to the synagogue’s street address. Among its goals, the program aims to connect with individuals who do not consider themselves joiners, offer public space programming within the building, use social media to connect with new audiences, and establish relationships with local media, businesses, and families with young children. Examples of some of 430 DeMott’s community-wide events include Shabbat on the Beach, a sukkah story time and music program on the synagogue’s lawn, and a Hanukkah craft program at a community craft store.
- “East Side Jews,” an outreach program for the Jewish community in East Vancouver, won a Belin Award for Temple Sholom in Vancouver, BC. Affordable housing and family-friendly neighborhoods attract young Jewish families to the area, so East Side Jews strives to meet people there with innovative monthly programs that forge connections and create community – both among the families themselves and between families and Jewish life. In addition to events focused on Jewish holidays, Shabbat, and social justice, clergy meet regularly with individuals and small groups in coffee shops and on playgrounds to talk about people’s interest in Jewish living.
For more information about the Belin Awards, visit the Audacious Hospitality Group in The Tent, the URJ’s communication and collaboration platform. The application deadline is Monday, April 3. If you have other questions, email Ilyssa Parker, Audacious Hospitality’s project manager.
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April Baskin is the Union for Reform Judaism's vice president of audacious hospitality.
Ilyssa Parker is the project manager of audacious hospitality at the Union for Reform Judaism.