How We Built a Terrific Website for Our Congregation

March 19, 2018Deb Moran

When I joined Congregation Am Echod in Grayslake, IL a few years ago, I was asked to contribute volunteer hours. I happily stepped up to take over maintenance of our synagogue website, which had not been updated in some time.

I’ve been involved in web page development in some form for several decades, so this responsibility was a good fit for me. The congregation’s website was built using RJ Web Builder 2.0, a platform offered by the Union for Reform Judaism to its nearly 900 congregations across North America.

I had never worked with Joomla, the platform used for RJ Web Builder 2.0, so there was quite a learning curve for me in regard to backend organization, using the features to create a robust web presence, and keeping the website up-to-date. However, the URJ provides great support for RJ Web Builder and I was able to update our site without too much trouble.

When I heard the URJ was going to switch platforms, I admit I was apprehensive. Then, I learned we would be moving to WordPress, a tool I’ve been using for several years. I was excited to get going on the migration of Am Echod’s site!

Except for one small glitch, the transition to the new platform was almost flawless. Of course, I didn’t do any of the heavy lifting, but I was thrilled with the way all our content ported over to the new platform and how it looked in our new template. We were able to go live with a sleek and shiny new web presence right out of the box!

I was even more excited when I realized I wouldn’t be overwhelmed learning to use the new Themify Builder. I hit the ground running and made content updates within the native WordPress parts of the platform’s backend. I felt right at home!

According to Joel Emerman, the URJ’s congregational websites manager, our congregation was the fourth site to go live with RJ Web Builder 3.0 on WordPress in early December. It’s been three months since our site’s transition to WordPress and in recent weeks, I’ve really begun to explore the feature-rich capabilities of Themify Builder, whose drag-and-drop platform makes it super-easy to layout and format modules on the page. Although it’s taken a bit of trial and error to get things looking the way I want, the entire process has been relatively frustration-free. As time goes on, I anticipate moving all our content to within Themify content modules.

The “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” (WYSIWYG, pronounced WHIZ-ee-wig) interface of WordPress with Themify is quite straightforward and extremely intuitive to navigate, giving me confidence that when I inevitably transition my webmaster responsibilities to someone else in the congregation, the changeover will go smoothly, regardless of the person’s technical aptitude. In the meantime, I couldn’t be happier with RJ Web Builder 3.0 on WordPress and how it works!

To learn more about RJ Web Builder 3.0 on WordPress, including how your congregation can use it to build a website, a benefit of URJ membership, contact Joel Emerman, the URJ’s congregational websites manager.

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