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URJ Biennial Raises Up The Jewish Education Project


By Rabbi Jennifer GoldsmithCommunal Education Consultant, Westchester

This is my third URJ Biennial, the Reform movement’s national conference, but it is the first time I left feeling so proud of the work I do.

The Jewish Education Project’s Congregational Learning Department got great press at the URJ Biennial in San Diego last week. Our work was raised up in many sessions including a lengthy description by Dr. Rob Weinberg on our partnership with the Experiment in Congregational Education over the last handful of years. This included not only slides with our logos, an in-depth description of whole person learning with a great picture of Levi, but also a viewing of the latest video which shares a letter write by Carly a student at Community Synagogue of Rye. Mindy Davids RJE, Director of Religious School and Educational Innovation at Temple Shaaray Tefila, one of our grant recipients, also sat on a panel of educators with innovative models. She discussed her MASA program talking not only about the structure of the program, but the change process her synagogue went through to get there.

Dr. Robert Weinberg at URJ Biennial

Dr. Robert Weinberg at URJ Biennial


In addition to the formal opportunities to hear about our work, I had a chance to catch up with many of our grantees. Including a big hug from Rabbi Mara Young at Woodlands Community Temple where she announced “I love peer consulting!” Peer consulting groups, new for many members of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations this year has grouped synagogue educators from across New York. Groups come together either in person or via phone every couple months to share dilemmas and engage in a rich conversation aimed to offer suggestions and new ideas to the presenter. I was also able to speak with at least 50 people from all parts of the country during my time, sharing with them the work we do. Everyone was captivated with the way we are helping innovation and change happen in our synagogues. People were especially intrigued by the idea that we have a large number of tried and true models and that one focus we have is helping synagogues become excellent adaptors. I even had three different people, one from CA, one from NJ and one from CT ask if they could hire us to do consulting work. I said with a smile… “maybe in our next grant cycle!”

In President of the URJ Rabbi Rick Jacob’s address to the biennial he spoke of “audacious hospitality,” a theme that was carried out and revisited throughout my time in San Diego. Audacious hospitality is the idea of welcoming, being in relationship, sharing, partnering, all values that we work hard to help our congregations realize. From the grant initiatives to the innovative models, from the values we embody to the feeling of camaraderie I was proud to see that so much of the work we do has been embraced by my movement. 

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