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Synagogues chosen for early childhood pilot program
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Synagogues chosen for early childhood pilot program

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, Temple Sinai in Summit, and Temple Emanu-El of West Essex in Livingston are among 15 Reform congregations in North America selected to participate in the Union for Reform Judaism’s Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center Community of Practice.

The aim of this congregational networking group is to discover new ways for congregations to make the early childhood center a gateway to lifelong engagement for children and families.

In a similar vein, Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro is participating in URJ’s Young Adult Engagement Community of Practice, created with similar goals.

By participating in these URJ initiatives, the synagogues will have to meet with leaders from congregations with common interests to share ideas and experiment together with new strategies. They also will have access to the URJ’s Faculty of Expert Practitioners, leaders in their fields.

“Across North America, people hunger for real connections,” said URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “They want — they need — to be part of meaningful communities. 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 15 congregations in the early childhood community of practice will work together formally for 18 months, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance, create congregational changes, and gain skills intended to benefit all areas of congregational life.

Each “community of practice” will begin and end with an in-person meeting for congregational staff and lay leaders involved in the initiative. There will be monthly virtual gatherings and e-learning opportunities. Results of the strategic experiments will be shared with congregations outside the communities of practice and with the Reform movement at large.

“We believe that the relationships built among the community of practice participants will support creation and innovation through a new paradigm,” said Vicky Farhi, codirector of the URJ’s Expanding Our Reach. “No longer will congregations need to experiment on their own to create change. The consistency of belonging to a committed group — a community of practice — focused on similar areas of interest will encourage congregations to delve more deeply and with long-term commitment to transforming their culture.”

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