New OU Program On Best Practices in Outreach to the Unaffiliated

09 May 2008

An Orthodox Union program, funded in part by a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, will provide in-depth training to three Metropolitan New York area synagogues in outreach to marginally affiliated and unaffiliated individuals and their families. The program results from the OU’s recognition that increasing numbers of individuals are not involved with Jewish communal and synagogue life and from the OU’s kiruv (outreach) efforts in response to that reality, including a kiruv guidebook and power point presentation.

The new program, “Reaching Out, Changing Lives,” draws on the OU’s substantial experience in kiruv, and will enable it to share its expertise with the three chosen synagogues. A variety of other kiruv organizations’ “Best Practices” in kiruv will be included, with the OU Department of Community Services serving as both a facilitator for the synagogues, and a coordinator of the efforts of the other outreach organizations.

Synagogues interested in participating have been invited by the OU to attend a meeting on Tuesday, May 20 from 7:00-9:15 p.m. at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, 125 East 85th Street, in Manhattan, in which they will be briefed on details of the program and how to become involved. Synagogues in New York City, Westchester and Long Island, the area served by UJA-Federation, are eligible for participation.

The OU plans to take the program national after it has been established in the New York area.

“The Orthodox Union is calling on synagogues to empower their communities and to expand their horizons by reaching out to marginally affiliated and unaffiliated individuals and families,” declared Frank Buchweitz, Director of the Department of Community Services. “By reaching out, synagogues will have the opportunity both to attract new members who have never attended services there before, as well as to inspire those who may have come just for the High Holy Days to increase their involvement in synagogue life.”

Buchweitz and Emanuel J. Adler, Chair of the OU Commission on Community Services, which oversees the work of the department, expressed their gratitude to UJA-Federation for providing the funding for making the program possible. “Without their resources, we could not have assembled the coalition of organizations to make this program a reality,” they declared.

The OU will offer training sessions that include ready-to-use kiruv programs, consultations, speakers, and resource materials to be made available to synagogue leadership and their outreach committees.

The “Best Practices” to be highlighted include:
• How to Develop an Effective Outreach Program;
• Developing an Effective Beginners/Intermediate Learners Service;
• How to Develop an Effective Shabbat Table: Developing and Nurturing Relationships;
• A Taste of “Discovery” Shabbat: Motivating Membership to Reach Out, and Issues and Effectiveness in Outreach;
• Crash Courses in Basic Hebrew Reading, Basic Judaism, Living Judaism, Jewish History and Holiday Workshops and Shabbat Across America;
• Mizmor Shir Leyom HaShabbat, a special Shabbat service; and
• One-on-One Learning Program: Personal Trainer.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out and change lives,” Buchweitz said.