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URJ Continues Disaster Relief Funding

This week, the Union for Reform Judaism disbursed its second round of disaster relief funding to support rebuilding efforts following Typhoon Haiyan. To date, the URJ has released nearly $250,000 for the relief efforts, and we continue to partner with both North America and Philippines-based NGOs to support the most critical needs related to the recovery. Here is a summary of the March 2014 allocations:

"Every Day Feels Like International Women's Day"

Anat Hoffman
Every day feels like women's day at the Israel Religious Action Center.  Yes, this is because 20 of our 24 staff members are women and there seems to be a never-ending line to our bathroom.  But mainly because the work we do is intrinsically linked to the status of women in Israel.  IRAC's issues are women's issues. The only organization in Israel that empowers Haredi and Reform Jews alike, we have changed the social fabric of Israeli society since last year's International Women's Day.  What has happened to women's rights in these past 12 months?  Let us take stock of some of these accomplishments.

Community. Prayer. Holiness.

By Rose Snitz As people gather and voices come together in harmony, the holiness of the space begins to form. From Shabbat services in local communities to regional Havdalah services, to closing rituals during the North American Convention, there’s always an

What Is Audacious Hospitality?

The Jewish people is here today because those who came before us were audacious. By that I mean courageous, fearless, and bold. Genesis teaches us to practice audacious hospitality. On a blisteringly hot day, Abraham runs after three desert wanderers, insisting they come inside for nourishment. What makes his act so memorable is not waiting for the wanderers to knock on his door; instead, he goes out to meet them where they are and invites them in. Some months ago, I arrived early at one of our URJ congregations to speak on a Friday night. In the lobby, a woman wearing a nametag looked at me and barked, “What do you want?” I answered, “I want to be in a congregation filled with warmth and welcome.” She looked at me, her expression communicating, “Boy, do you have the wrong place!” Then she looked over her shoulder at the easel in the entryway, which held a picture of a guy who looked a lot like me. “Are you him?” she asked. I nodded “yes.” With suddenly discovered warmth, she said, “Well, why didn’t you say so?”

Blue Ridge Mountain High: The ECE-RJ Kallah

by Cathy Rolland How fortunate I was to be among a dedicated group of early childhood professionals who gathered last weekend in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for a dose of spiritual renewal and time together with respected colleagues with whom I could share ideas, resources, and challenges around our sacred work to engage young children and their families in the joys of Jewish life. How blessed I was to attend the 2014 Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism Kallah. Our adventure began at Congregation Beth HaTephila, where Rabbi Batsheva Meiri and the Kitah Hey class of talented fifth graders led a truly inspiring and meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat service. The next day, we spent time devoted to intentional Jewish practice in North Carolina’s beautiful outdoors.  Led by Rabbi Mike Comins and Shira Kline in the spring-like air and sunshine of the Tar Heel State, I felt true kavannah (intention) in my worship, joy in my singing, and that indescribable ruach (spirit) that happens whenever Jews come together.

Unto Zion We Shall Give Torah

By Rabbi Josh Weinberg "All the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which Adonai had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the Law… 8 And they read in the book, in the Law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people: 'This day is holy unto Adonai your God; mourn not, nor weep.' For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law." (Nehemiah Ch. 8:1-3; 8-9)

Tivnu: Building Justice

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Steve Eisenbach-Budner Tivnu: Building Justice is a new organization based in Portland, Oregon. Tivnu is proud to partner with URJ’s Mitzvah Corps Portland this summer, and, this fall Tivnu is launching the first stateside Jewish gap year program.  Both our summer and gap year programs combine social advocacy, Jewish learning and living, and construction work and training with affordable-housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity. We believe that it is important for Jews to engage in social justice work not just as individuals, but as representatives of the Jewish community in partnership with other communities. For us, creating meaningful social justice initiatives involves:

Stronger Together: The Story of a Community’s Regrowth

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Ivy Cohen Five years ago, the three Reform Synagogues in the Metropolitan New Orleans Area, each with their own unique, rich and glorious histories faced a common problem: their youth groups had shrunk to an unsustainable size. Touro Synagogue, Congregation Gates of Prayer and Congregation Temple Sinai, which each had thriving youth programs at one point, were operating with less than ten members. The synagogues each had a volunteer advisor who worked diligently to recruit and publicize their events. However, they were unable to get critical participation numbers, and the investment was outweighing the returns. There were some teens actively participating, those who were the true foundation and heartbeat of the youth group that would show up to anything branded by their respective acronym. Despite the eager few, though, the reality of the situation was grave. The congregations could no longer justify operating independent youth groups. The synagogues each agreed that they wanted teens to have access to some kind of Jewish experience, ideally grounded in the Reform community. Although there were other options in New Orleans for a post b’nai mitzvah experience, the congregations wanted to ensure that their teens had access to a uniquely Reform Jewish experience.

It Won’t Work If Congregations and Educators...

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Ava Kurnow
  • only think about engaging post b’nai mitzvah students
  • don’t look at the whole picture of their community
  • don’t know what their short and long term goals are
  • don’t engage the stakeholders
Is there anything above that Jewish educators don’t already know?  Is there any congregation that doesn’t want to engage their members, including the youth?  Is the importance of building relationships within your community a new concept? After you answer, “No”, think about what has changed and why we’re all looking for new ways to engage our youth. What will help you and why are we all writing and reading about what everyone else is doing?