OU to Award a Grant of up to $20,000 to Synagogue Presenting Best Outreach Initiative

03 Jan 2007


With the assimilation rate in the North American Jewish community hovering at 50 percent or above, and with a large number of unaffiliated or marginally affiliated Jewish individuals and families, the Orthodox Union is calling on its synagogue network to actively respond by creating a synagogue-based outreach program targeted at unaffiliated Jews with minimal or marginal synagogue involvement.

The OU is offering an incentive to the synagogues with a grant of up to $20,000 to one synagogue which will develop an outreach program which can be easily replicated by other communities.

The grant is made possible through the OU’s Department of Community Services and the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services. It is open to OU member congregations across the United States and Canada in good standing.

Applications, which have already been sent to OU synagogues, are due at OU headquarters by March 1, 2007.

Applicants will be notified by letter on or before March 29, 2007.

The award is intended to support a variety of activities in the area of outreach, including discussion series, multi-faceted conferences, symposia, public forums, and hands-on learning experiences, among other initiatives.

It is only one part of a larger OU outreach initiative which is now in its planning stages. The initiative was tested at the recent OU Biennial National Convention in Israel at the session Increasing Membership through Outreach, which was presented to a substantial audience of synagogue leadership.

Criteria to be considered in the grant proposals will include:

• Is the proposed project grounded in synagogue and communal life?

• Will the project effectively convey its stated themes and goals?

• Is the project clearly outlined and realistic in its goals?

• Can the project be replicated by other synagogues and communities?

• Is the budget reasonable?

“Everyone has an exceptional opportunity to reach out to the unaffiliated and marginally affiliated individuals and families in their communities,” declared Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Services and Special Projects.

“There are so many wonderful organizations doing outreach. Our program supplements their efforts, and we are empowering individuals and synagogue leadership to become more involved in this crucial area for our people,” he said.

This is not the first time the OU has made a large grant available for synagogue programming. Last year, the OU awarded grants of up to $20,000 for unique programs having a positive impact on their communities and synagogues. The programs included Israel action; education for children and adults; and lay leadership development, among others.

According to OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, “Last year’s grants program was so successful that the OU determined to bring it back. While last year’s programs touched on many aspects of Jewish life, given current Jewish population statistics,” Mr. Savitsky continued,” the OU decided to dedicate the new initiative solely to outreach.”

Emanuel J. Adler, OU Senior Vice President and Chairman of the Community Services Commission stated, “Lay people can play a vital role in outreach by demonstrating the beauty of Jewish family and communal life. Experiencing first-hand the level of engagement of non-clergy in the transmission of our tradition inspires the unaffiliated to become more involved themselves. We need to empower and train our laity to supplement the work of outreach professionals.”

According to Stanley Weinstein, OU Senior Vice President and Chairman of the Synagogue Services Commission, “Within our shuls and communities, there is a great deal of creativity for dealing with Jewish concerns. The purpose of the grant is to direct this creativity towards the critical issue of reaching out to our Jewish brothers and sisters who may not be involved.”

“Outreach is one of the ways we show our care and love for our fellow Jews,” declared OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. “With this grant, the OU is proud to encourage our synagogues to think of creative new approaches to involve more people in Jewish life.”

For further information and additional applications, contact Frank Buchweitz, at 212-613-8188, or frank@ou.org.