“I came thinking I would meet some nice people and have some resources I could integrate into my board leadership. I left feeling inspired to take action.”
-- Helen Holden, 2017 URJ Scheidt Seminar
As this blog post about leadership development opportunities indicates, the 2019 URJ Biennial is the number one way to reach a large swath of Reform Jews and give them tools and resources to make a lasting impact on congregational life.
But the learning and networking don’t stop there. The next stop for congregational presidents and presidents-elect should be the URJ Scheidt Seminar for Presidents and Presidents-Elect.
During the past six years, I have met hundreds of presidents and presidents-elect when they attended the annual Scheidt Seminar. Representing Reform communities of all sizes in locations across North America, they came together to learn, to network, and to build relationships that enriched their work as presidents and as Reform Movement leaders.
When I survey the array of lay leaders who participate in the seminar each year, I marvel at their commitment as volunteers. Despite demanding professional jobs, parenting responsibilities, and a range of other obligations that make for incredibly hectic lives, they all have taken on this sacred calling to lead and inspire sacred action in their own communities. The diversity in their life experiences, skill sets, and faith journeys stirs me – and strengthens Reform Judaism.
Throughout the four-day seminar, I watch relationships form among attendees, who are grouped together for much of the time based on congregation size. This configuration ensures that discussions relate to their needs around topics such as thinking like a president, governance, engagement, and creating a culture of philanthropy. In other sessions, participants are grouped in other ways to help them build a diverse network of support.
When I meet with each of the four size-based groups on the second day, part of my job is to help them coalesce. At Shabbat dinner, I notice the conversations (and the laughter) are deeper, as people share about themselves and their congregations – and truly start to weave a network of support with each other. Shabbat – with its worship, text study, and time to continue to build relationships – reinforces a communal atmosphere that truly reflects a kehillah kedoshah, a holy and sacred community.
I was rejuvenated by the depth and breadth of the curriculum, the intimacy of the event, and the chance to meet and interact with so many like-minded congregational presidents. I returned home inspired to move forward with new initiatives and to try a few experiments I might never have considered otherwise. I also now know that I’m not alone in this work. I’m now connected to a wonderful group of people who share my passion for synagogue life, who are doing the same sacred work, and with whom I can consult and confer whenever I have questions or concerns.
I am hopeful that participants (and their fellow congregational leaders back home) remember they have a unique relationship – a sacred partnership – with each other. Most of all, I want them to know that the Scheidt Seminar marks the beginning of the leadership support the URJ will offer them in the sacred congregational endeavors they undertake. As always, after the next cohort of presidents and presidents-elect completes the Scheidt Seminar, I will watch eagerly to see what outstanding programs, initiatives, and leaders result from the experience.
Registration for the URJ Scheidt Seminar is now open. Congregational presidents can choose between the February 6-9, 2020 seminar (San Diego, CA) and the April 23-26, 2020 seminar (Atlanta, GA), but can attend only once. To learn more, watch this informative webinar, or email us with questions or for more information.