Community Projects & Partnerships

The Department of Community Projects & Partnerships works to enhance Jewish communal life on a national scale by strengthening community leaders, organizations, and infrastructure; by confronting ongoing communal challenges; by responding to crises and natural disasters; and by empowering change through education, bringing Torah values to life. The department reaches these goals by connecting and collaborating with Jewish lay leaders and industry experts

Photo on left: From left to right: Rabbi Moshe Hauer, EVP, OU; Robert Safren, executive director, The Jewish Entrepreneur; and Ned Schoenfeld, cofounder, The Parnassah Exchange, at a roundtable discussion about career or business growth and financial responsibility.

STRENGTHENING PARENTS, STRENGTHENING FAMILIES, STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES

Recognizing the importance of the health of the family unit to the health of the entire Jewish community, the OU has built an educational and experiential framework to guide parents in their irreplaceable roles in the lives of their children. Partnering with experts in the field, the Empowered Parenting Initiative focuses on the importance of the home environment and how parents model their values.

The initiative includes research-based programs that will be evaluated, and where appropriate, replicated and scaled throughout the country.

The first year of this initiative has successfully launched in pilot cities. Led by professionals, courses include Guiding Good Choices, a curriculum from the University of Washington’s Center for Communities that Care; The Digital Citizenship Project, which teaches parents how to best interact with technology, ensuring a safe online experience; and the Healthy Habits Hub, which encourages modest changes that families can make to create positive results.

Parents and community members at “OU Empowered Parenting in the Digital Age” event, featuring lecturer Dr. Eli Shapiro, Director of the Digital Citizenship Project. The program was a collaboration of the Cincinnati Community Kollel, Cincinnati Hebrew Day School (CHDS), Congregation Zichron Eliezer (CZE), Golf Manor Synagogue, Ohr Torah Cincinnati, and Shaarei Torah Synagogue.

LIVING SMARTER JEWISH: FINANCIAL WELLNESS

Providing the Orthodox community with financial education, practical tools, and coaching, Living Smarter Jewish works to create a pathway toward a healthier financial future for our families and community. The focus includes:

  • Providing the Orthodox community wThe Torah value of living responsibly and within one’s means
  • Platforms to help individuals take control of their finances and achieve financial literacy

  • Financial literacy curricula for Yeshiva day schools and parents
  • Coaching to help with family budgeting

GROWING AND STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES

ON THE ROAD WITH THE COMMUNITY FAIR

In this audio series, created in partnership with OU’s International Jewish Community Home & Job Relocation Fair, radio hosts Nachum Segal and Miriam L. Wallach interviewed leaders of 34 communities representing 14 states as part of "Road Trip." The series provided a look at the opportunities and amenities of "out-of-town" Orthodox Jewish communities for those interested in moving.

LEADERSHIP SEMINARS: GROWING COMMUNITY

A new series of webinars for community leaders focuses on promotion, marketing, and other necessary strategies to help grow and strengthen local communities while preparing for the upcoming Virtual Community Home Relocation Fair.

FOCUS ON RETIREES:

Rabbi Chaim Loike, Rabbinic Coordinator, OU Kosher, shows a live bird at the SPIRIT program, "Behind the Scenes: How the OU has Spearheaded the Preservation of the Mesorah of Kosher Birds."

SPIRIT: STAYING INSPIRED

The SPIRIT Initiative—begun in 2013 for active retirees, empty nesters, and baby boomers—has seen tremendous growth in participation and engagement over the last year in its online weekly programs. With 6,000 participants from 35 states and 19 countries, SPIRIT has offered over 100 virtual programs on topics ranging from mental health, nutrition, memory enhancement, Jewish history, kashrus, finance, and more.

HELPING FAMILIES DURING PESACH

Supporting needy families in the community during the Passover season, the 2021 Maos Chitim Campaign allocated $330,000 of donated funds to 77 organizations across the country.

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

In partnership with 15 organizations throughout the United States, the OU highlighted Mental Health Awareness Month. This included resources to help parents have an open dialogue with their children, as well as to help people navigate COVID-19 and domestic abuse.

BRINGING VACCINATIONS TO JEWISH COMMUNITIES

After convening a discussion between leading vaccine experts and our poskim, and as an extension of OU’s original guidance about vaccinations in December 2020, the OU partnered with community rabbonim, leaders, and organizations such as JOWMA to create a national vaccine education and awareness campaign. In addition to the national campaign, the OU mobilized local efforts including partnering with Hatzalah for a vaccination day in Brooklyn, helping hundreds of people to get vaccinated.

ORGANIZATIONS PARTICIPATING IN MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

  • CCSA INC.
  • CHAI LIFELINE
  • THE DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP PROJECT
  • MAGEN YELADIM INTERNATIONAL
  • MASK
  • OHEL
  • OUR PATH
  • PENIMI
  • PROJECT AMUDIM
  • RCA
  • RELIEF
  • SHALOM TASK FORCE
  • SOVRI HELPLINE
  • YESHIVA UNIVERSITY
  • NATIONAL COUNCIL OF YOUNG ISRAEL
Rabbi Simon Taylor, National Director of Community Projects & Partnerships, volunteered at a vaccination drive in Brooklyn at Hatzalah headquarters with pharmacist Ambar Keluskar.

THE ORTHODOX UNION FAMILY RELIEF MISSIONS

PRIORITIZING THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP

In the summer of 2021, the OU launched family Relief Missions in conjunction with NCSY's Teen Relief Missions to provide families with volunteer opportunities to strengthen the bond and build trusting relationships between parents and children. These hands-on leadership experiences help children build confidence and a connection to their families and their Jewish identity.

Past missions aided communities in:

  • North and South Carolina
  • Iowa
  • Long Beach (NY)
  • Louisiana
  • Puerto Rico

Future mission locations include:

  • Bahamas
  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Rwanda

NCSY Teen Relief Missions included:

  • Creating, planting, and maintaining community and urban gardens, with a percentage going to food banks.
  • Working on both long and short-term projects on Dr. Shira and R' Josh Tennenbaum's farm.
  • Partnering with Habitat for Humanity and the MLK Center to rebuild the Center chairman's home, lost to Hurricane Sandy.
  • Visiting a community in need and partnering with local groups to help them rebuild. Celebrated Shabbat and immersed in the local culture while there.
BRS high school students clearing debris from the front lawn of a home in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Families from Chicago joined in a Family Relief Mission for two days, helping a Jewish family build and manage their farm in Iowa.
Father and son bonding during New Orleans relief mission led by Rabbi Ethan Katz in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.