Giving Thanks for #GivingTuesday

By Rabbi Rick Jacobs Thanksgiving used to be a day unto itself; now we have a whole Thanksgiving season! Americans' shopping habits brought us catchily-named, add-on "holidays" like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. In the last couple of years, we’ve thankfully (no pun intended) added a new day to the mix: #GivingTuesday. … [Read more...]

The Ghosts of JFNA Past, Present and What Yet Might Be: A Call for Submissions

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), formerly the United Jewish Communities (UJC), is an umbrella organization representing over 150 Jewish Federations and 300 independent Jewish communities across North America. JFNA was formed over a decade ago by the merger of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), Council of Jewish Federations, and the United Israel Appeal. … [Read more...]

The Extensive Reach of the Rebbe’s Emissaries: It’s Never Been Greater

The past: Chabad of Texas was founded on May 10, 1972, by Rabbi Shimon and Chiena Lazaroff. Five years later, more than 400 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Houston Chabad House, known as the Chabad Lubavitch Center at 10900 Fondren Road. (Chabad of Texas Archives)

As they gather for the annual convention in New York, a look at how Chabad has flourished in North America. By Faygie Levy  [This is the first in a series of articles on the growth and impact of Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide.] In the past several months, a group of young married couples, many with a baby or young children by their sides, left their home towns destined for cities and towns across the United States, including Frisco, Texas; Biloxi, Miss.; and Pittsburgh, Pa. They joined some 90 other young Jewish couples who have moved out of New York, some going far overseas, since the start of 2014 - as well as many of their contemporaries waiting to do so - in an effort to spread the light of Torah and Judaism throughout the world. Called shluchim, or “emissaries” in English, they … [Read more...]

7 Lessons on Family Engagement


By Rabbi Joshua Fenton For the last three years, we at Jewish LearningWorks have taken a close look at families with young children in the Bay Area. What we’ve seen are a growing number of families looking for opportunities to connect to Judaism and Jewish community, but in non-traditional ways. This might not sound like news. The Jewish community has been hearing for years about the emergence of alternative, non-traditional, post-denominational Jewish communities and congregations. What’s news is who these alternatives are attracting; simply put, everyone. Even though traditional institutions (shuls, day schools, JCC’s, and so on) strive to remain interesting and attractive to families, the trend is clear. People are connecting in entirely new ways and we need to understand what motivates … [Read more...]

Chicago’s Innovative Approach to Engaging Young Families


By Nancy Manewith It all began with an amazing meeting - a discussion, really - with Susan Zukrow, the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) project director for the Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative (CEELI). This new program, funded by the Crown Family Philanthropies and facilitated by the URJ, brings together 12 cross-denominational Jewish early childhood centers from the Chicago area to strengthen their work of engaging young children and their families through program excellence, while building and sustaining meaningful relationships. Though not an educator herself, Susan painstakingly took the time to learn the history and workings of the Chicago Metro area’s Jewish early childhood community, in order to lead this groundbreaking early engagement leadership initiative. From the … [Read more...]

Casting Away Barriers to Community: Tashlich Together

By Rabbis Elan Babchuck, Barry Dolinger and Sarah Mack Each year at Rosh Hashanah, Jews around the world gather at bodies of water of varying sizes to cast off sins in the form of bread crumbs. This year, in Providence, Rhode Island, we cast off something more: our institutional boundaries, our movemental constrictions and our prior notions of community. It was a joyous occasion this 5775 when for the first time ever, the three largest congregations in Providence (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox) gathered for Tashlich together. It was not always so. Each year for over a decade, three congregations gathered separately to perform Tashlich at the Seekonk river in Providence, Rhode Island. We convened at slightly different times and a few blocks apart and never even knew that the other was … [Read more...]

Challah for Hunger On the Rise


For 30% of our Jewish volunteers, we are proud to be their first Jewish experience on campus. By Carly Zimmerman Last month, I had the privilege of celebrating Challah for Hunger’s 10th anniversary, gathering with students, alumni, friends and our founder, Eli Winkelman, to look back at the organization’s incredible achievements. With more than 70 chapters around the world, we’ve engaged 7,000 student leaders, raised $600,000 for social justice causes and baked 200,000 loaves of challah. We’ve been honored by President Bill Clinton in his book “Giving: How each of us can change the world,” named one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in North America by Slingshot four times, and partnered with American Jewish World Service to educate thousands about the genocide in Darfur. I’ve … [Read more...]

Abraham’s Tent: How a Voluntary Contribution Model Creates a More Open Synagogue


By Charles Cohen Last week I had the chance to hear leadership from Temple Beth Am, in Jupiter, Florida, and from Temple Beit HaYam, in Stuart, Florida, share their experiences about switching to a “voluntary contribution” membership model. In this dues structure families and individuals are informed about the membership donation amount that would cover expenses, but are invited to simply pay what they feel they can afford, or what they want to contribute. The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Synagogue Institute organized the event so other local congregations had a chance to learn about how this transition was going, and ask any questions they had about the financial implications, the response from donors and the community, and evaluation. Both synagogues used these initiatives to be … [Read more...]