UJFT grant supports an educational outreach program focused on “Living a Jewish Life in the Reform Way”

by | Jan 10, 2014 | What’s Happening

First session: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 6:30 pm

Members of Congregation Beth Chaverim, as is typical of Reform Jewish congregations throughout North America, come from diverse religious backgrounds and experiences. Some are born Jewish; some are not. Some have converted to Judaism; some have not. Some were raised in Reform Congregations; many in a different denominational home. This diversity, while challenging, has also encouraged congregants to ask questions about approaching Judaism that might not have been asked if everyone was part of a more homogeneous group. In asking, Beth Chaverim has found that when it comes to the customs of home and synagogue, “two Jews, may indeed have three opinions.”

Over the years, conversations about differences in how to approach lives as Reform Jews while animated, have been informal. When the congregation began to consider applying for a grant through the Synagogue-Federation Partnership of the Tidewater Jewish Community this past summer, the grant committee realized it had an opportunity to widen discussion to a larger audience both within Beth Chaverim and to others in Tidewater. Such a discussion could make Beth Chaverim more cohesive and also provide an opportunity for those outside the congregation to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish religious practice and tradition within the context of Reform Judaism.

With this insight, the grant committee enthusiastically went to work. The result was the creation of a program of experiential learning modules that taken together would allow participants to learn about key elements of Reform Jewish practice and also to think about the application of that practice to their own lives and that of their families. While the actual classes would focus on the tangible and practical, more fundamental questions would be addressed such as: What makes a Reform Jew a Reform Jew? What does living a Reform Jewish life mean? What is central to belief systems and practices and what is peripheral? Is there one way or many to live a meaningful Reform Jewish life?

The grant was approved, and the program, made possible through funding of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation and the Simon Family Foundation, will become a reality.

The first session is scheduled for Jan. 21 and will continue biweekly until April 22. All sessions begin at 6:30 pm and will last approximately two hours. Participants at all levels of Jewish learning are welcome. The program’s goal is to have everyone increase their knowledge and bring whatever background they have to the educational conversation. It is hoped that interpersonal ties within the group will be developed and strengthened. The program is free and all materials will be supplied at the first session. Childcare will be provided upon request.

To find out more about the program or to register, contact Dr. Rita Frank at 498-5341 or through e-mail at refrank1@verizon.net.

by Rita E. Frank, Ph.D