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Inside Leadership
Members of the Maryland congregation and the Mexican congregation with the Torah being donated
Rabbi Allan "Smitty" Smith on the bimah at Biennial
View of seder table and people celebrating

Jewish holidays are a time to celebrate and engage in rituals with family, friends, and in our beloved communities, all of which connect us to our rich and sacred past. For individuals handling addiction and in recovery, however, the act of engaging with others can be difficult.

At North Shore Congregation Israel (NSCI) in Glencoe, IL, Rabbi Ryan Daniels devised a way to be audaciously hospitable to this particularly vulnerable cohort of individuals as they seek a Jewish connection in a safe space: a Community Recovery Seder.

I recently...

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Young children waving Israeli flags on the stage in a synagogue social hall

In recent years, numerous Israeli doctoral and post-doctoral students have come to study in Santa Barbara, CA. For many of them, engaging Jewishly has not been easy here in North America, where religious life and Jewish identity are quite different than in Israel.

These non-Orthodox Israelis generally don’t engage in synagogue life, but still identify strongly as Jews. Here, they can feel disconnected by the lack of Jewish culture on display and disoriented because, unlike back home, synagogues serve as the primary hub of the Jewish community.

In 2018, Mariela Socolovsky,...

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Group of smiling Jewish and Muslim children together at Camp Nefesh

One of Judaism’s strongest ideas is that of the ohel petuach, or the “open tent.” Symbolized by Abraham offering shelter to traveling strangers, we too can open our “tents” in many ways.

Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, CA, applied this concept by creating Camp Nefesh, a full-service day camp for newly arrived refugees. To learn more about this 2019 Belin Award-winning initiative, we caught up with Lucy...

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Temple Beth El members and friends participating in a gay pride parade

In Hebrew, nefesh is one of many words that means “soul.” More accurately, it means “breath” and reflects the force that sustains us, empowers us, and drives us not only to survive, but also to thrive.

Belin Award-winning Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, TX, applied this idea of breath and soul to their NEFESH (Neighbors Elevating Faith, Education, Service, and Hope) program, an initiative that offers themed learning opportunities each month. “The idea for NEFESH came from a desire to expose members of Beth-El and the greater San Antonio...

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Two women holding hands under a chuppah as a rabbi officiates over their wedding ceremony

When it comes to being audaciously hospitable, sometimes a congregation doesn’t need a specific initiative or program at all; rather, its commitment to welcoming can be seen in the small, seemingly unnoticeable day-to-day ways that the leadership and community interact with one another.

This was the case with Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley (TEMV) in Lowell, MA, and its LGBTQ+ “Uninitiative,” a series of...

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About Inside Leadership

Inside Leadership, the blog at URJ.org, is a source for Reform Jewish leaders to get the latest news and though-provoking articles about Jewish communal life.