Message from Laura EJ Rose, February 2018

It is rewarding to know that Temple Beth Ami is already deeply committed to some of the focus areas that the URJ identifies as essential for strong congregations.

Temple Beth Ami is not alone in its work to reimagine itself through strategic planning. As the umbrella organization for North American Reform Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism represents 900 congregations in the U.S. who, like Temple Beth Ami, are focused on staying relevant and innovative. In 2015, The URJ began offering new and inventive fellowship programs through online learning and experimentation with creative community building after adopting its “2020 Vision” as a means for strengthening individuals in our expanding Jewish world. 

“From North America to Israel and back, the URJ knits together the fabric of contemporary Jewish life with inclusivity, creativity, and an abiding belief in our collective ability to reimagine Jewish life of the 21st century,” describes URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “Reform Judaism’s vibrancy comes from a constant infusion of adapting our tradition and values to our lives today. We must continually develop new strategies to create a relevant, powerful, living Judaism.” It is in this spirit that Temple Beth Ami is endeavoring to create a bold and ambitious strategy for the future with our own Vision 2020 initiative.

Our Congregation’s URJ membership offers us the support of URJ resources and programming. This past year, the December 2017 URJ Biennial in Boston, MA offered a small group of Temple Beth Ami leaders the opportunity to join thousands of Jews from across North American and around the world to learn, pray, share ideas, and hear from inspiring speakers and leaders of the Reform Movement. Our Temple Beth Ami delegation included Shari Davidson, Kathy Goldgeier, Jonathan Golub, Judi Goozh, and Jane Jacobs (Kathy and Judi are members of the URJ National Board). Their experiences at the Biennial were varied, and helped to spotlight projects and programs that Temple Beth Ami might choose to develop here at home.

Judi Goozh, who moderated a session on “Relationships: Impact and Meaning,” described multiple learning sessions offered to the 6000 Biennial participants this year based on the tracks of audacious hospitality, music, strengthening congregations, tikkun olam, transforming texts, and youth engagement. The URJ’s families with young children team (on which Judi serves) is focusing on “our changing marketplace and how to promote the early childhood program and integration between the school and synagogue that can inspire and nurture a family’s lifelong Jewish journey.”

Just as Temple Beth Ami is looking to connect and network with young families, “The URJ believes that in order to succeed and thrive, Reform congregations must take a comprehensive approach to early childhood education and family engagement with the childhood director, synagogue professionals and lay leaders as working partners.” And according to Judi, “A lot of the discussion fits right into our own Vision 2020.”

It is rewarding to know that Temple Beth Ami is already deeply committed to some of the focus areas that the URJ identifies as essential for strong congregations. But, while we are already endeavoring to find ways to engage our young families and to program for our “Encore” congregants, Jane Jacobs notes that, “there are many opportunities to engage (them) further.” The hope expressed by all of our TBA Biennial participants was that they would be able to bring back both information and spiritually uplifting messages from the conference in order to lend that experience to our TBA Vision 2020 project.

“I was overwhelmed by the choices of breakout sessions, as there were dozens available at each opportunity - from best practice engagement ideas, social justice, specific women and children issues, spiritual learning, etc. I even made several valuable connections with the vendors at the Exhibit Hall,” described Shari Davidson. “Between this Biennial and our 3 trips to Israel in 18 months … we are even more inspired and invigorated by our faith. We hope to invest this enthusiasm by participating in TBA's leadership going forward.”

Our challenge as we begin to build our own Vision 2020 plan will be to open the lines of communication and to build connections between people who choose to engage with Judaism in all different ways. “Being with over 5000 other Reform Jews gives one a unique sense of connection to the larger Jewish community,” says Jane. “In these times of declining membership in religious (and non-religious) affiliation organizations, it's a reminder that the larger Jewish community is alive and well, and available to connect to.”

Lend your voice to our Vision 2020 as we look to strengthen our community, to invest in the Jewish future, to repair the world, to connect to Israel, and to inspire all those who wish to find their place at Temple Beth Ami.