URJ Communites of Practice: Launched!

At a three-day conference held this week at the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare Hotel, the Union for Reform Judaism officially launched three of the initial “communities of practice” – congregational networking groups – focused on “expanding our reach.”

The Chicago gathering allowed congregational staff and lay leadership from 32 participating congregations to begin building relationships and sharing ideas about congregational experimentation in the areas of:

The congregations in these three communities of practice will work together formally for the next 18 months to push the boundaries of existing congregational efforts, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance, learn from URJ’s Faculty of Expert Practitioners, make changes in their congregations and garner skills that will benefit multiple areas of congregational life.

URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs worked with each group on creating a culture of change in their congregations and Amy Asin, a member of the URJ Faculty, led workshops on experimentation and evaluation.

Participants also enjoyed a Saturday morning Shabbat service led by Rabbi Jacobs, with musician Alan Goodis of Chicago.

Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE, URJ’s Co-Director of Expanding Our Reach, said of the event, “The gathering in Chicago was inspiring. Representatives from these 32 congregations came together with open minds and open hearts to engage in learning from experts and one another. The relationships established during the weekend will support the experimentation that will be initiated in each congregation. These congregations will be our leaders in creating new knowledge about the subjects studied.”

The following congregations participated in the inaugural event:

  1. Temple Sinai, Toronto, ON
  2. North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL
  3. Temple Beth El of Northern Valley, Closter, NJ
  4. Temple Sinai, Summit, NJ
  5. Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, NY
  6. Temple Beth-El, St. Petersburg, FL
  7. Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ
  8. Congregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, MO
  9. Temple Emanu-El, Atlanta, GA
  10. Temple Israel, Columbus, OH
  11. Temple Akiba, Culver City, CA
  12. Congregation B’nai Brith, Santa Barbara, CA
  13. Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
  14. Temple Shalom, West Newton, MA
  15. Temple Emanu-El, West Essex, NJ
  16. University Synagogue, Los Angeles, CA
  17. Beth Israel, San Diego, CA
  18. Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD
  19. Temple Rodeph Torah of Western Monmouth, Marlboro, NJ
  20. Temple Chai, Pheonix, AZ
  21. Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
  22. Temple Beth Am, Farmingham, MA
  23. Temple Shalom, Dallas, TX
  24. Congregation Shir Ami, Castro Valley, CA
  25. Congregation B’nai Torah, Highland Park, IL
  26. Beth David Reform Congregation, Gladwyne, PA
  27. Temple B’nai Israel, Oklahoma City, OK
  28. Temple Beth El, Charlotte, NC
  29. Congregation Adas Emuno, Leonia, NJ
  30. Temple Emanu-El, Utica, NY
  31. Temple Beth El, Tacoma, WA
  32. Temple Beth Torah, Ventura, CA

The next community of practice will be launched in March; the subject will be Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st-Century Congregation.