Perhaps the most obvious
venue for outreach programs is the synagogue. The synagogue
is the most recognizable symbol of the Jewish community,
has its own organizational infrastructure, and has regularly
scheduled events. But among the unaffiliated and intermarried,
negative experiences have often made the synagogue the
last place they would want to enter. Because of these
associations, synagogues can be a liability in outreach.
For this reason, the Jewish Connection Partnership funded
creative and dynamic congregational initiatives that
would break the stereotype of the synagogue as an intimidating
An excellent example of a creative congregational outreach
initiative is Montreal's Project Inter-Minyan.
Designed especially for interfaith couples that wish
to be married by the rabbi, the program explores Jewish
tradition, history and life in a vibrant setting based
in Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom. As a springboard to
the larger congregation, the program focuses on the
outreach stage of making a transition to the community.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun formed
the Rural and Small Community Outreach Project
to provide public outreach to Jews in rural areas. Although
not based in the synagogue itself, the program offers
daylong family-oriented programs to Jews in rural communities
that are too small and far-flung to maintain their own
congregations. Participants in these rural areas often
traveled hundreds of miles to reach the events. The
Rural and Small Community Outreach Project fulfills
both the outreach step of reaching out and making contact
and that of providing services.
Sponsoring Agency: Temple
Project Inter-Minyan pursues outreach on a small group
model of about 20 couples dedicated to pursuing Jewish
life through study, Shabbat, and holiday celebration,
or exploration of community responsibilities. The project
includes psycho-educational meetings that focus on couples'
problems and decisions, as well as those of their parents.
Inter-Minyan launched its first reunion of former participants
of the Introduction to Judaism course in April 2001. Over
70 people-both interfaith and conversionary couples-attended
a dinner, dance and discussion. The reunion planning committee
saw this as an ideal springboard for future and continued
interaction with these members, and it gave couples
a chance to re-connect with others they hadn't seen for
a while. The discussion segment of the evening included
comments from various couples on how comfortable and respected
they felt at Temple and how pleased they were to have
chosen Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom as their home-many
spoke of its inclusive atmosphere. A written evaluation
was sent following the reunion suggesting future Adult
Education topics as well as other personal interest ideas
for learning. The committee will use the results to design
programs to meet those particular needs.
on the positive dynamic and cohesion of their group, as
well as the impetus of the reunion, one class has formed
a 'post-grad' group that will meet monthly at different
homes. A participant of that group commented on the resolve,
perseverance and hard work it takes to keep the momentum
going and this group certainly has it. Their energy is
directed towards getting together to explore and learn
more about Judaism and to celebrate Jewish holidays."
-- Rhona S.
Rural and Small Community Outreach Program
Sponsoring Agency: Congregation
The Rural and Small Community Outreach Project is designed
to serve the diverse needs of Jews living in Nebraska
communities located at great distances from a synagogue.
It provides a national model to serve other such communities.
The project offers new opportunities for Jewish growth
in these under-served areas and in Lincoln, a city of
200,000 with fewer than 1,000 Jews.
"We're so happy about this project. We drive two hundred
miles each way to attend these programs. Since we're the
only Jews in our town, it's worth it. It's especially
important for our children to get to see other Jewish
children. At home we try to express our Jewishness the
best we can. When we celebrate Shabbat and holidays the
kids take out these big stuffed bears. They put the bears
in chairs around the table, and put a kippah on each one's
head. That way there's more members of our Jewish family
to celebrate with.
always something for everyone at these programs. Some
like the service, others, the topical discussions, and
there are always some activities for the children. Everyone
enjoys having lunch together. Regardless of what's served,
it's great to sit and talk with other Jews. I must comment
however, about one special lunch. Kosher deli was flown
in from New York. Most of the people at that program originally
came from large cities and really appreciated tasting
these delicacies that are unavailable in Nebraska. We
unfortunately have never had such food, and we loved it.
"The program in March held a special treat. We watched
a production of 'The Megillah According to Rock 'n Roll.'
The cast made the one hundred mile trip from Lincoln to
perform the same show that was presented to the Congregation.
It was really great.
"This project has meant a lot to many of us. It's not
just the opportunities that we have to gather in Jewish
community, but also the idea that someone, somewhere
is thinking of us." -- Helen