Union for Reform Judaism Launches RJ Connect, A New Initiative for Seekers and Couples Exploring Jewish Life

Inside Leadership

Union for Reform Judaism Launches RJ Connect, A New Initiative for Seekers and Couples Exploring Jewish Life

Multi-Pronged Service Connects Individuals and Couples to Their Peers, Communities, Reform Jewish Clergy, and Opportunities to Experience Jewish Life

Press Release

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

Boston, MA; December 7, 2017 - URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs today announced RJ Connect, a new initiative with networking resources, an online officiation connection service, and Introduction to Judaism and Taste of Judaism® courses, including Online Introduction to Judaism. The URJ represents the largest, most diverse Jewish movement – 900 congregations strong and inspiring 2 million people across North America.

URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced goals for RJ Connect, during the 2017 URJ Biennial General Assembly in Boston. He also announced the hiring of Rabbi Julie Zupan as RJ Connect Director.

After a pilot phase, RJ Connect will include three interlocking initiatives:

  • A new network of groups for Millennials – many, but by no means all, synagogue based. The network will reflect and address the high mobility in that cohort and enable young adults to draw strength from each other.
  • A new and powerful officiation connection network. The URJ will make it easier for couples considering marriage, including interfaith couples, to find Reform rabbis and cantors through the CCAR and ACC, and also to find the right Reform congregation for their new family. 
  • In-person and online Introduction to Judaism and Taste of Judaism® classes, and the Yours, Mine and Ours program for interfaith couples.

Rabbi Jacobs said, “RJ Connect is about welcoming previously unconnected people, which will in turn bring strength to our Movement for years to come. RJ Connect will be a suite of transformative programs that connects and sustains our communities in the short and long term by activating the full potential of our congregations and institutions to impact a lifestage of profound transition and mobility.”

RJ Connect expands the offerings of Audacious Hospitality, the URJ’s focused effort to embrace diversity and reach out to those currently not engaged in Jewish life in order to further strengthen the Jewish community, led by Vice President of Audacious Hospitality April Baskin. As Baskin explained, “For too many it is too challenging to connect to Jewish life.  Successful groups offering relevant ways to plug into congregational life thrive in many areas of North America but these discrete programs are not interconnected in a way that strengthens the larger whole. Finding rabbis and cantors as officiants, partners and teachers is not as easy as it should be, particularly for the growing number of couples planning an interfaith or same-sex wedding. RJ Connect is about making connection easy.”

RJ Connect is being created to reflect these needs, utilizing the broad reach and expertise of the URJ and its network of North American congregations and communities to enable interfaith couples, seekers, and young adults to form connections with each other and with Judaism. It will begin with prototyping in select areas. 

RJ Connect’s Millennial network will replicate, incubate and bring together the most successful young adult communities that have flourished and found followings both in and outside the walls of their congregations. Existing programs in Boston, New York, Boise, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Memphis and others that incorporate dinners, learning sessions, real relationships with clergy, innovative payment models and more, are models that RJ Connect will grow and link together as a way to attract and serve Jewish young adults every day of the week.

RJ Connect’s clergy connection service will offer the opportunity to effectively match appropriate clergy members for the 10 million people who come to ReformJudaism.org for Jewish learning, holiday and ritual guidance, history and recipes. These matches will lead to close clergy relationships that last long after a wedding day.

Daryl Messinger, Chair of the URJ’s North American Board, added, “The idea of connection, of community, is central to everything we do and believe as Jews. We are finding more ways to make even more connections for everyone who identifies with the way we observe and live Judaism, and with our core commitments to the great moral issues of the day. The URJ and our nearly 900 congregations will be creating new avenues for building meaningful relationships with more people.”

Rabbi Zupan’s previous role was as the Director of the URJ’s Reform Jewish Outreach Boston, supporting individuals and interfaith couples exploring Judaism through classes and workshops. She has served as a congregational rabbi and in a variety of educational roles.  

Rabbi Zupan said, “RJ Connect will use the URJ’s robust resources and connections to better enable seekers, individuals, couples, and families to make Reform Judaism an essential part of their daily lives. It’s thrilling to help all people – those with strong Jewish backgrounds, interfaith families, and those new to the Jewish community – to access the deep wisdom of Jewish tradition at a time in their lives when they’re seeking meaningful Jewish connections.”

“Rabbi Zupan excels as a teacher and guide for all those exploring the many pathways into a more meaningful Jewish life,” said Rabbi Elaine Zecher, Senior Rabbi, Temple Israel of Boston. “I have had the pleasure of working closely with her as she becomes a true partner to seekers, couples, and families. There is no one better to bring the opportunities of RJ Connect to the Jewish community.”

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About the Union for Reform Judaism

The 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.

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