I hope you are encouraging your congregation’s president to attend this year’s URJ Scheidt Seminar, which will take place online from April 22-25. It is open to anyone who is currently a congregational president or co-president with at least one year left on their term and anyone who will become a congregational president in 2021.
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 and locations across North America, they have come 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 the call to lead and inspire sacred action in their own communities. The diversity of 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, being a change agent, encouraging diversity, participant 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.
Of course, due to COVID-19, we have moved the seminar online. The result is that more participants are able to afford the time and reduced expense of the seminar and still experience similar impact to the in-person event. Here’s what a few of our attendees said after the online version in October 2020:
“The URJ has incredible resources for our board. Congregations across the movement are moving beyond survival and beginning to focus on innovation and future models of service.” – Benjamin Benson, Temple Beth El, Charlotte, N.C.
“It was a great experience. I was told by many how important this was for beginning my presidency. I was not disappointed. Thanks for providing this program as well as the follow-up networking opportunities that I know will help along the way.” – Janice Wittmershaus, Temple Anshe Hesed, Erie, PA
“I came away feeling supported. I was astounded by the degree of support and appreciation for the presidents; I had no idea, truly, and felt very personally and individually valued. Everyone seemed so willing to be frank and honest. I had heard good things about Scheidt from some past presidents, but no one talked about these aspects at all.” – Susan Karnes Hecht, Vassar Temple, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
"I was wary of the online experience feeling Zoom fatigue on many levels. I could not be more pleased to have had the opposite experience. I think the URJ did an amazing job conducting the conference virtually. I felt very connected throughout.” – Heather Getman, Temple Israel of the City of New York, N.Y.
“Great to have the unstructured time talking to other congregation leaders. It was one of the most useful things. Even though we were virtual, we still connected. Thanks for providing additional time to do that.” – Linda Bookey, Congregation Kol Ami, Kirkland, WA
The faculty and speaker line-up this year will cover topics that address the need to balance maintaining a strong congregation for today while leading change for the future and the dilemma of dealing with the urgency of the pandemic and the important long-term challenges to congregations. In addition, there will be significant time spent in small groups for reflection, discussion, and relationship building. All attendees will have an opportunity to join a small networking group that will continue after the seminar.
I hope to see your president or president-to-be in April.
Find more information about the 23rd Annual Scheidt Online Convening for Congregational Presidents, Co-Presidents and Presidents Elect at www.URJ.org/Scheidt.
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