Five Lessons Learned: How the URJ’s Communities of Practice Strengthen Congregations

December 2, 2014

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Two years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism launched its Communities of Practice (CoP). We began with five separate cohorts, comprising lay and professional leaders from congregations throughout North America: Pursuing Excellence in Your Early Centers, Engaging Families with Young Children, Engaging Young Adults, Reimagining Financial Support, Revolutionizing B’nai Mitzvah Engagement.


During the course of 18-24 months and with guidance from URJ staff, each cohort came together to learn from experts in the field and from each other, ask big questions, and share ideas and best practices. Leaders from nearly 90 congregations participated in the five inaugural CoPs, and more than 75% of them have since launched pilots to apply newfound knowledge in their own communities.


Throughout the process, we developed significant intellectual capital, and gained important insights about how CoPs strengthen and enrich congregations. Here are five important lessons learned.

  • It’s easier to take risks together.
  • Flexibility is critical.
  • Applied learning builds capacity.
  • Innovations benefit congregations and the Movement.
  • Strong relationships enhance the work.

Now what? The URJ recently launched two new local CoPs – one in Denver and one in Chicago – that include participants from multi-denominational early childhood centers; plans for additional CoPs are in the works. Each of these groups will be enriched by what we’ve already learned from our CoP initiative, namely that promoting collaborative learning, experimentation, flexibility, relationship building, and, ultimately, transformation not only strengthens individual congregations, but also benefits the greater Reform Movement.


Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Dec. 17, 2014