NEW YORK – One of the most profound ways the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Jewish community over the past year was the initial closure of and the subsequent limitations on synagogues. Now, as more congregants have been vaccinated and individual state regulations on indoor public gatherings have eased, the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community, is launching a new $100,000 challenge grant. The grant is designed to support congregations who create innovative programs and services that will invigorate synagogues and stimulate congregants to re-embrace synagogue life.
Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded to the programs selected and will be administered through the OU’s Department of Synagogue Initiatives. Synagogues interested in applying for a grant can apply via https://www.ou.org/grant21/. Applications are due April 30th and awards will be announced on May 14th.
“With the pandemic keeping so many community members away from their synagogues, it is imperative that we think together as a community to re-imagine the synagogue experience in a way that excites and motivates members to return,” said OU President Moishe Bane. “It is important to focus on engaging all segments of our community, including youth, women and seniors who have had even fewer outlets over the course of the pandemic to re-engage in synagogue life.”
The OU hopes to partner with communities to remind community members of the many vital aspects of Jewish life that only happen in a synagogue community.
“We are looking to spur thoughtful conversations within synagogues as to how to restore and enhance their vibrancy and remind our communities’ members of the many spiritual, educational, communal, and social dimensions of our synagogues. The synagogue is the halachic and historic hub of Jewish life and this program is designed to highlight that,” said OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer.
“Beyond the awarding of grants itself, our goal with this program is to create a repository of ideas and share them as broadly as possible so that the broader Jewish community can benefit from the wisdom and creative ideas of others,” said OU Synagogue Initiatives Director Rabbi Adir Posy. “We are trying to spur innovation and make everyone the beneficiaries of these innovative ideas.”
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.