UJA-Federation of New York Awards $1.05 Million to the Experiment in Congregational Education

Monday, February 2, 2004

Grant for The RE-IMAGINE Project Will Improve Quality and Impact of Religious Schools in Greater New York Area

February 3, 2004 (New York, NY) - In an effort to improve Jewish education in the approximately 300 Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and unaffiliated congregational schools throughout the New York area, UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (CoJIR) has awarded the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) a grant of $1.05 million to bring The RE-IMAGINE Project initiative to 20 synagogues in the area. The project, which has the potential to directly affect the lives of thousands of Jewish children, family members, congregants, and teachers and to transform the landscape of congregational education in New York, reflects UJA-Federation's commitment to renewing and strengthening the Jewish people.

"We fully expect that through the efforts of RE-IMAGINE a larger percentage of Jewish children in New York will be engaged as Jews, will care about their Judaism, and will have strong Jewish identities," said Scott Shay, CoJIR's chair. "Promoting excellence in Jewish education advances UJA-Federation's mission of strengthening Jewish identity from generation to generation. CoJIR is looking forward to partnering with congregations from the entire New York area and from across all the Jewish movements to pursue this endeavor."

RE-IMAGINE was pioneered last year in five New York area synagogues. The $1.05 million commitment from CoJIR will challenge 20 local congregational schools to create new models of supplementary Jewish education. It will also allow ECE to prepare to work with additional congregations in the future. Through the RE-IMAGINE process congregations learn to:

  • Reshape religious school to speak to today's children and their families.
  • Foster partnerships between professionals and congregants.
  • Change the basis of discussion from complaint to constructive thinking.
  • Explore alternative models of religious school and adapt them to their congregants' collective vision.
  • Build the capacity to make institutional change.

     

The ECE, a project of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Los Angeles, is working closely with lead staff people from New York area agencies of Jewish education and the major denominational movements to coordinate support for congregations before, during, and after their involvement in RE-IMAGINE.

Rob Weinberg, director of the ECE and leader of The RE-IMAGINE Project, said, "By expanding The RE-IMAGINE Project in New York, UJA-Federation is making a meaningful impact on Jewish education in New York. With their support, we will have the opportunity to further develop tools and techniques to reach congregations we otherwise couldn't and to help them articulate their own visions for education. Perhaps most importantly, the ECE team has been able to create a model for engaging more congregations more effectively at lower marginal costs."

Cyd Weissman, The RE-IMAGINE Project's New York coordinator, has worked closely with the five pilot congregations and notes that this project "has energized lay and professional teams to work together with a wonderful sense of hope for Jewish education in their congregations. We look forward to helping 20 more congregations move from strength to strength."

ECE and UJA-Federation have recently invited applications from more than 60 congregations of all sizes and across all denominations. Congregations participating in the project will pay a fee to help cover project costs.

For more information about The RE-IMAGINE Project, visit www.eceonline.org, or contact Cyd Weissman by phone at 1-347-200-1515 or by e-mail at cweissman@huc.edu.

The Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE), a project of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Los Angeles, is the nation's first synagogue transformation project. The ECE seeks to strengthen the synagogue's place as a critical center of Jewish life in North America by helping congregations to become Congregations of Learners and Self-Renewing Congregations.

The world's largest local philanthropy, UJA-Federation of New York strengthens community and helps 4.5 million persons in New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island, as well as 3 million in Israel and 60 other countries. Funds raised by UJA-Federation sustain the activities of more than 100 health, social-service, educational, and community agencies. Every day, these community-based organizations provide a multitude of services that improve and enhance people's lives.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu