Building on Successful Launch Cohort, Union for Reform Judaism Introduces New Communities of Practice, to Promote Innovation in North American Congregations

Second Group of CoPs – Kicking Off at the URJ Biennial Convention – Strengthens Congregations by Focusing on Working Deeply on Early Childhood Engagement, Pursuing Social Justice, Revolutionizing B’nai Mitzvah, and More
Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

November 6, 2015, Orlando, FL – At the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial convention, the largest Jewish gathering in North America, the URJ officially launches six new Communities of Practice (CoP) – congregational networking groups that bring congregations together to learn, network, and experiment on a topic of shared interest.

77 participating teams from 72 congregations from around North America have been selected for the CoPs to work together with leaders from other congregations, share ideas, and experiment locally. The URJ Strengthening Congregations team facilitates these congregations learning from each other over an extended period of time as they experiment in areas critical to their future. Strengthening Congregations is a key priority of the URJ’s bold 2020 Vision plan of action.

“Across North America, people hunger for real connections. They want – they need – to be part of meaningful communities,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. 

“The URJ Communities of Practice give Reform congregations opportunities to work together, take risks, explore new ideas, innovate, and have unprecedented access to top experts.”

Each CoP cohort works together formally for 18-24 months to push the boundaries of existing congregational efforts, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance along the way, create congregational changes and garner skills that will benefit all areas of congregational life. Congregations have access to the URJ’s professional staff and expert consultants, some of the most renowned thought leaders in their fields.

Every CoP group’s activities include an in-person kickoff meeting for congregational staff and lay leadership involved in the initiative at the URJ Biennial in November in Orlando, FL from November 4-8. Monthly virtual gatherings and e-learning opportunities continue the collaborative work. Finally, results of these strategic experiments will be shared with congregations outside the Community of Practice and with the Reform Movement at large. 

“URJ’s Communities of Practice inspire congregations to build the skills to experiment and innovate in areas of congregational life that are important to them. We connect congregational leaders to each other as well as to experts, valuable resources, and learning opportunities. The cohort model allows congregations to engage with a group to experiment, lowering the risk and sharing learning,” said Amy Asin, URJ Vice President of Strengthening Congregations.

“From the work of previous CoPs, we know that the support available in belonging to a committed group focused on areas of shared interest encourages congregations to delve more deeply into their work and creates a longer term commitment to build the skills for experimentation. The participants engaged in this sacred work will grapple with challenges and celebrate successes across the network. We also look forward to sharing what they learn and do with all URJ congregations.”

The six new URJ CoPs focus on:

  • Building a Brand: Excellence in Reform Movement Early Childhood Engagement
  • Creating Connected Communities for Families with Young Children (for congregations withoutEarly Childhood Centers)
  • Pursuing Justice: Becoming a Community of Action (with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism)
  • Finding the Sacred in the Mundane: Reimagining Financial Support
  • Engaging Congregants through Small Groups with Meaning
  • B’nai Mitzvah Revolution: Innovators Lab

These new groups follow the successful completion of the first four URJ Communities of Practice which involved 48 participating congregations around the topics of Meaningful Young Adult Engagement; Successfully Engaging Families with Young Children; Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center; and Reimagining Financial Support for your 21st Century Congregation.

"The URJ’s Community of Practice structure gave us tools to enthusiastically tackle change," said Dr. Paula Sayag, early childhood director, Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, MD.
It also offered the support of the URJ faculty and the opportunity to share the experience with colleagues in other cities who were experimenting at the same time. Our school and our team benefited so much from this experience that our board members have agreed to continue meeting monthly to see where our newfound skills and understanding can lead. Eighteen months after beginning this journey, we are more knowledgeable and less scared of change. Our school is thriving, with more students and greater vibrancy than we have had since 2009,"



About the Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay adept and agile, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.

Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with almost 900 member congregations and work that inspires millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.

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