Providence’s Temple Beth-El is one of 10 Reform congregations in North America selected to participate in the newly formed Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Community of Practice dedicated to Post-B’nai Mitzvah Innovators. This URJ Community of Practice (CoP) is a congregational networking group for Reform congregations that are seeking to discover new ways to engage teens and families in the years after celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
“The past year has been filled with exciting and progressive innovations in the Rabbi Leslie Yale Gutterman Religious School. Participating in this Community of Practice felt like the next logical step in our own process of reflection, transformation, and growth,” said Rabbi Sarah Mack, director of education.
By participating in this initiative, Temple Beth-El will have the opportunity to meet with leaders from congregations with common interests to share ideas and experiment with new strategies. Temple Beth-El will also have access to the URJ’s professional staff and expert consultants, some of the most renowned “thought leaders” in their fields.
“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 will give Reform congregations opportunities to work together, take risks, explore new ideas, innovate and have unprecedented access to top experts.”
The 10 congregations in the Post-B’nai Mitzvah Innovators CoP will work together formally for 20 months to push the boundaries of existing congregational efforts to engage their teens. Participating congregations will receive guidance from peers and advisors to experiment in their own communities, create congregational innovations, and garner skills that will benefit all areas of congregational life.
“The dynamic conversation that has been a part of our Task Force process will, no doubt, be enriched by our participation in this Community of Practice,” said Dr. Lesley Bogad, chair of the RLYGRS Task Force. “After nearly two years of curricular and logistic transformation in PK-6, we are ready to approach our post b’nai mitzvah learning.”
This CoP will include an in-person meeting for congregational staff and lay leadership involved in the initiative in March 2018. There also will be monthly virtual gatherings and e-learning opportunities. Finally, results of these strategic experiments will be shared with congregations outside the CoP and with the Reform Movement at large. “URJ’s Communities of Practice (CoP) 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.