"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 transform ourselves spiritually 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 29, 2019.
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 2019 URJ Biennial to be held in Chicago, IL, in December.
Here are just a few examples of award-winning entries from the recent past:
- On any given Shabbat night at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, LA, 90-100 congregants and guests – more if groups are visiting or a special event is happening – load up their plates with delicious food, find a table at which to sit, and enjoy catching up on the week with those gathered around them. “Is it always like this?” is a question visitors often ask. Indeed, why does this intergenerational, diverse, delicious, experience happen every week?” It happens because Touro Synagogue is intentional about making it happen; they’ve made prayer and singing and dinner a priority – every single week. Audacious hospitality isn’t a “program” or a one-time “project.” The congregation’s Shabbat experiences is what audacious hospitality looks like as its members live it continually by welcoming everyone to their communal table.
- Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park, PA, hosted a “Kindness Counts” conference focused on creating welcoming Jewish communities for LGBTQ Jews. Co-sponsored with J.PROUD, a community-building consortium for Jewish LGBTQ individuals and families in greater Philadelphia, the emphasis was on the “T” in LGBTQ, with regard to gender, rather than sexuality, as well as distinguishing “inclusion” from “welcome,” and creating a vibrant, safe space for all, regardless of gender or gender expression.
- Purim Together at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, CT, sought to connect young congregants and their families to senior congregants – by visiting the seniors in their homes or by writing to them – initially around CBI’s Purim festivities. Over time, the project helped establish relationships between young and old that created a deeper appreciation and respect for each other and helped the congregation’s seniors feel more connected to the greater community.
- The REAL Mental Health Initiative at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA, seeks to build and sustain a community that accords to all people respect, dignity, and the opportunity to experience meaningful social support and inclusion free from stigma. The congregation works to end the shame and isolation of mental illness in the Jewish community by creating a culture of empathy, strengthening the safety net, and bringing those who face mental health issues together in a welcome, accepting environment.
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 29. If you have other questions, email Jennifer Goldstein, Audacious Hospitality’s program manager.
Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE, is the director of the URJ Leadership Institute, part of the Strengthening Congregations team. Jennifer Goldstein is the program manager of audacious hospitality at the Union for Reform Judaism.
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