A core function of the USCJ strategic plan is the “seeding and nurturing of new kehillot and engaging the next generation of kehilla leadership.” With little more than this important mandate, we set out this year to understand the landscape, conduct research and develop plans. We are entering year two enthusiastically, armed with increased knowledge and understanding.
Alim: Our pilot project with Beit Rayim in the Toronto area has shown we can effectively facilitate growth and innovation by partnering with emerging kehillot and sister institutions. Working with JTS’ Gladstein Fellowship in Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Alim program has given Beit Rayim the tools to continue development into a full-service kehilla as they hire a rabbi, grow their school and move into a new sanctuary. The current Alim action plan calls for continued growth in the years ahead. The plan calls for new Alim models for lay-driven and hybrid kehillot, rabbi-initiated and vision-directed kehillot, community outreach rabbis, and increased partnerships with other arms of the movement. This will involve extensive training in grassroots community outreach for rabbinic and lay leadership. With a current budget allocation of less than $25,000, much of this work will be dependent on philanthropy.
Koach: The budget process that precipitated hard decisions regarding Koach has come as a mixed blessing. The unfortunate media leak brought a great deal of negative publicity. The good news is that as a result of that publicity, serious discussions are now taking place regarding Conservative Judaism’s place on the college campus. It is clear that while we have made an important impact with limited resources, efforts need to be expanded if we are to support and nurture those students on campus who identify with our approach to Jewish life and to provide for their transition into young adulthood. Lay and professional leaders from throughout Conservative Judaism, along with representatives from Hillel, will be convening on September 5 to work together on creating a bigger, bolder and better approach to our work with college students. The working group will be tasked with developing a long-range plan that will be presented to the board later this year. Simultaneously, we are on pace to reach a board mandated goal of raising $130,000 by December 31, with approximately $60,000 raised and pledged in the last few weeks alone.
Young Adult Outreach: As previously reported, through our young adult micro-grants program, we have successfully connected with over 90 young adult initiatives in North America. Twenty-five of these groups received micro-grants this year, and we are currently in the process of reviewing evaluations of each program. Once this task is complete, we will be sharing “best practices” with our kehillot interested in outreach to 22-35 year old adults. In addition, we just completed a highly successful Young Adult Taglit Birthright Israel trip, which took 40 participants to Israel under our auspices. We are in the process of follow-up, which will include providing individual guidance and identification of leaders. Plans are underway for a second Taglit Birthright Israel trip next summer, as well.
— Rich Moline, Chief Outreach Officer