URJ Awards Reform Congregations' Outstanding Outreach and Membership Programs

New York, New York, May 21, 2013--The URJ is pleased to announce the winners and honorable mentions of the 2013 Belin Outreach and Membership Awards.  The Belin Outreach and Membership Awards have been designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding Outreach and Membership programs, which actively welcome and integrate those new to Judaism, create relationship based membership models, or develop new, innovative ways to engage and retain members. Eight winners were awarded $1,000, funded through the generosity of David Belin, z''l, the first chair of the URJ-CCAR Joint Commission on Outreach and Membership. All winners and honorable mentions will be honored at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in San Diego, December, 2013.

“For the past 18 years, the Belin Awards have encouraged Reform congregations to find innovative ways to welcome and engage those who might find a home in our congregations, bringing new life to our communities” said URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Jonah Pesner. “The winners and honorable mentions listed here exemplify the Jewish mitzvot of ahavat ger, loving the stranger and keruv, drawing near those who are far.”

The eight winners, with Outreach and Membership programs that demonstrated a high level of creativity, originality and excellence include:
1.    Congregation Shir Ami, Castro Valley, CA: Membership Hospitality Using Social Media, designed to strengthen congregants’ ties to the congregation by creating a synagogue Facebook page in which congregants, clergy and staff can post wishes and words of praise, encourage one another with “likes” and repostings and are able to see a list of members’ birthdays and anniversaries.
2.    Temple Sinai, Atlanta, GA: Temple Sinai Ambassador Corps, in which involved and committed members were invited to become Sinai Ambassadors, who promote Temple Sinai to the community, participate in the recruitment process, reach out to prospective members and are featured on the temple’s digital marketing campaign.
3.    Temple Sinai, Sarasota, FL: Gift Membership Program, an initiative in which congregants invite and become the hosts of families with school-aged children, new to the temple, who receive one-year gift membership, during which special events for gift members and their hosts take place. In addition, as part of this program- all Jewish families with a child enrolled in the temple’s Gan (new or existing members), receive complimentary temple membership.
4.    Congregation Or Chadash, Chicago, IL: Hidur Keshet: Enhancing the Rainbow- Judaism with a Queer Perspective, targeting LGBT who are either interested in converting to Judaism or in deepening their Jewish practice by offering a year-long series of sessions, focusing on Community, Torah and Hebrew, which enrich Intro to Judaism classes offered at the temple.
5.    Congregation Beth Yam, Hilton Head Island, SC: Outreach: Welcoming Interfaith in Every Generation, intended to creatively reach out, educate and honor the many temple members who are touched by interfaith by holding workshops that educate grandparents on their role in their grandchildren’s lives, who grow up in interfaith families, by matching interfaith families with host families for holiday or Shabbat meals, by holding trips to a Synagogue and a Church that were built at the same time, meant to honor non-Jewish spouses, and much more.
6.    Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle, WA: KIDdish Club, an initiative intended to connect affiliated and unaffiliated young families to the temple, by offering weekly free drop-in playdates, a Shabbat morning “Tot Shabbat” service, Family yoga for young families and much more.
7.    Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA: Shalom Corps, a creative program designed to create a welcoming experience for all visitors- new or not- by appointing friendly congregation members as greeters, who host a “pre-neg”, assist members who seem to be “lost” and engage anyone who seems interested to find a partner for a conversation.
8.    The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah, Overland Park, KS: Individualized Jewish Path (IJP), in which members explore where they see themselves in their Jewish life, and develop a three-year program for their personal Jewish growth, guided by trained volunteer “See’ot”.

The nine honorable mentions, which developed exceptional Outreach and Membership programs, include:
1.    Temple B’nai Shalom, Fairfax Station, VA
2.    Temple Adat Shalom, Poway, CA
3.    Temple Beth Torah, Upper Nyack, NY
4.    Temple Beth El, San Pedro, CA
5.    Temple Beth El, Charlotte, NC
6.    Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor, MI
7.    Congregation Kol Ami, Elkins Park, PA
8.    Ohef Sholom Temple, Norfolk, VA
9.    Temple Israel, Memphis, TN