The URJ is committed to providing its congregations with a strong web presence. RJ Web Builder 3.0, the URJ's WordPress-based platform, allows congregations to build and host their websites with 16 themes to choose from, a built-in ticketing system, software and server maintenance, and server space for hosting your site.
I asked new webmasters Lisa Goldstein, RJE (she/her/hers) of Congregation Shalom of San Antonio, Co-President Karen Freedman of Beth El The Beaches Synagogue in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and Treasurer Michelle Foels (she/her) of Temple Shalom in Myrtle Beach, SC to share what their motivations for choosing our platform were, what their experiences were like, and what features they most enjoy.
Saving Money, Professional Design, and Ease of Migrating Content
"I needed to build a website for our new congregation, and I wanted it to look professional and inviting," said Goldstein. "I felt the WordPress options would help us do that. As a very small congregation, we are always looking to minimize costs. By using RJ Web Builder, we are saving the $400 we were paying for our website every year plus the $40+ [we were spending] monthly on a form builder."
Likewise, Freedman said that switching over to a free platform "made the decision an easy one!" and she appreciated the ease of migrating content from her old site to the new one. "Building the site was straightforward and adding content was easy. It's very user-friendly once you get the hang of it."
Foels shared that in addition to saving money, it was important for her to create a professional-looking site, which she has been able to achieve with RJ Web Builder 3.0 using Themify, a drag-and-drop layout tool that helps arrange site content. This offers a lot of flexibility when displaying images, videos, and general information.
Freedman agreed her experience overall was "good when migrating content."
Helpful Resources for Content Creation and Bespoke Plugins
There are how-to videos, recorded webinars, and tutorials for those looking to learn the basics, as well as webmasters looking into more custom changes. These tutorials helped Foels "figure out how to do almost everything."
The URJ continues to post new resources designed to help webmasters consider what kind of content is most helpful for their congregations. We have also developed guidelines for writing inclusive content, taking pictures, creating podcasts, and producing videos.
Developed with congregations' needs in mind, RJ Web Builder has plugins (additional software that adds specific features) installed. Gravity Forms is a form builder plugin for accepting donations, registering attendees for upcoming events, and making payments. "As the webmaster and treasurer of our synagogue, being able to have forms for payments, donations, etc. helped cut down on actual paper that I had to handle," Foels said. Goldstein also considers the form builder a bonus, saying it "drives people to our site."
Additionally, the WP-Members plugin that allows webmasters to hide full menu items or content on specific pages was "something [Foels] had wanted for years."
Another popular plugin is the RJ Web Builder Calendar, our custom calendar management system. This plugin is tailored specifically to congregations and works with Google Calendars.
Pre-Loaded Content from ReformJudaism.org's Blog
For those who want high-quality content without having to create it, RJ Web Builder is a great option. "The article links are a great added feature for our members," said Freedman. "It's nice to be able to share interesting news articles related to Judaism."
Goldstein, Freedman, and Foels each recommend RJ Web Builder 3.0 as an excellent platform for building their congregational websites. "Overall, it's been a very positive experience," said Goldstein, whose site has successfully garnered the interest of people outside the congregation. "One Shabbat, we had a guest at services. When we asked how he found us, he said he went on all the San Antonio synagogue websites and ours looked the best and most inviting!"
With feedback like that, we hope that your experience with RJ Web Builder 3.0 is equally positive.
For more information about RJ Web Builder 3.0, review our help site and watch our informational video.