Congregational Life

How PJ Library® Helped Our Congregation Engage Families with Young Children

Marilyn Gootman
February 5, 2015
Congregation Children of Israel is a 150-family congregation in Athens, GA. As a small congregation, we were looking for creative ways to welcome and engage families with young children, one of our target membership demographics. The answer came in the form of PJ Library®, which enables us to offer book subscriptions to local families raising Jewish children ages six months to 8 years. Our congregation joined the program in 2007, and it has been a huge success.

Twenty Becomes One: Seeing Our Congregations as Family, Especially During Hardship

October 30, 2014
In the fall of 2008, I was the executive director of a 1,000-household synagogue. We had recently finished a major sanctuary renovation, and our membership numbers were on an encouraging upward trend. Our finances were sound, and we had big plans for the year ahead. The new president of our board was writing her first Yom Kippur appeal as I was busily taking care of the last details of our High Holiday preparation. Then, two weeks before Rosh HaShanah, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, after which the bank loan market crashed. Banks large and small suffered huge losses, and during the first week of October, the stock market experienced a sharp downward spiral. That week was was Kol Nidre, and our president ascended the bimah (pulpit) to deliver an appeal for donations on the very day on which many in our congregation had lost a significant amount of money – money they were counting on for homes, for retirement, for food. The president delivered a masterful appeal that evening, and even on that worst of economic days, we collected Yom Kippur appeal monies in excess of what we had collected the previous year. The next day, on Yom Kippur, the stock market fell 700 points, sending the entire country into a recession that, some would argue, continues to this day.

Men of Reform Judaism Announces New Strategic Plan

July 15, 2014

The Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ) met recently in New Orleans for their annual convention where they announced significant organizational changes to better advocate for and support compelling strategies to engage and connect the men of Reform Judaism. MRJ is the affiliate organization of the Union for Reform Judaism that is focused on connecting and engaging men in Reform Jewish life.

MRJ President Stuart L. Leviton of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA, says,
"While honoring and preserving the legacy of Brotherhoods and the men who have sustained MRJ throughout the past 90 years, MRJ has embarked on an exciting new phase. Working in greater alignment with the URJ, we will now be more seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the Reform Movement and will be better equipped to engage men in the real issues they face in Jewish life across North America.

It Takes a Village (and a Little URJ Help) to Build a Congregational Website

January 7, 2014
With people doing so much of their shopping online these days – for everything from clothing to electronics to groceries to books, and just about everything else – it’s become evident to my synagogue’s board that temple shopping begins online, too. Prospective members no longer wait to drop in unannounced at Shabbat services or attend open houses. People no longer want to waste their time with a temple that doesn’t provide what they’re looking for. They want to know right off the bat: Does the synagogue have a nursery school? When are Hebrew School classes? Are there activities for the parents and grandparents? Until recently, my synagogue had a very plain website, with our basic information laid out in simple language alongside a photo collage, a music video, and… not much else. The information was there, but it was uninviting. When our temple president began the process of creating a new website, it all sounded so simple. We sought a volunteer who would create a professional, easy-to-navigate website that would attract new members and be a useful tool to give our current membership up-to-date information about temple activities and services, as well as to showcase who we are and what we are about.