The Cuban government is showing signs of being more open to religious life in Cuba; women lead prayers and preach sermons at a new all-female mosque; and a Hindu boy’s rite of passage.
The post Religion in Cuba; Women’s Mosque of America; Upanayanam appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
Beginning in August, the Reform Movement will join the NAACP on America’s Journey for Justice—an historic 860—mile march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. The Religious Action Center is supporting the mobilization of hundreds of Rabbis in partnership with the NAACP for the Journey, which will mobilize activists and advance a focused advocacy agenda that protects the right of every American to a fair criminal justice system, uncorrupted and unfettered access to the ballot box, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education. The Journey for Justice partnership between the Reform Movement and the NAACP reflects the long history of collaboration between our communities.
Our Movement, through the work of the Religious Action Center and the Rabbis Organizing Rabbis initiative, will be vocal leaders: more than 100 rabbis will coordinate walking the distance of the journey. Congregations will come together not just to walk, but to educate and mobilize participants in the many rally days to be held in multiple cities along the way. These marching rabbis will carry the sacred scroll of our Torah, carrying thus the Jewish values that compel us to stand with our neighbors and to fight for racial justice and equality.
Participate in the March: State Rallies for Social Justice
Reform Jews are joining with NAACP chapters and others in state rallies along the route for these touchstone events demanding justice. The rallies will take place in each anchor city along the route. If you choose to join, look for the Reform Movement leaders and Rabbis at the rally site. More details are forthcoming as they are finalized, and we will update this post as that information is released.
August 3: State Rally for Economic Equality
August 13: State Rally for Education Reform
August 20: State Rally for Criminal Justice
Greenville, South Carolina
August 26: State Rally for Voting Rights
Charlotte, North Carolina
September 16: Final Rally for Justice and Equality
Do you want to join the March along its 860-mile route?
Click here to learn more about the Journey for Justice, and to register yourself or your community to march.
Raise your Voice to Support Voting Rights Today
Whether or not you’re able to join on the Journey for Justice, you can raise your voice today by urging your Senators and Representative to support robust voter protections. We must ensure that all voices in our democracy are heard and the vital protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—drafted in the historic conference room at the Religious Action Center—are restored.
The post Praying With Our Feet: America’s Journey for Justice appeared first on Fresh Updates from RAC.
We visited a Hindu religious coming-of-age ceremony for nine-year-old Rushil Ramakrishnan at the Hindu Temple in Adelphi, Maryland. Also known as the “sacred thread” ceremony, it is typically performed for boys between the ages of 8 and 16 and traditionally marks the start of their formal education. Dr. Siva Subramanian, a neonatologist at Georgetown University Hospital and a founder of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple as well as other Hindu associations in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, presided over the two-day ceremony. He explains the meaning and significance of its elaborate rituals and Sanskrit chants.
View more pictures by photographer Sam Pinczuk:
Sim Shalom, the online synagogue, and founder, Rabbi Steve Blane, announce a new High Holiday CD that fuses the raw emotion of jazz and the traditional liturgy of ancient High Holiday prayer and...
(PRWeb June 19, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/06/prweb12797015.htm
Nearly every congregation today faces the challenge of trying to increase or stabilize revenue, so it’s no surprise that in the last few weeks alone, the Jewish press published three separate pieces on the subject:
- eJewishPhilanthropy shared an overview of the changing landscape and what that may look like for particular synagogues. They explain the traction this issue has gained in recent months, calling on the expertise of researchers and advocates for change.
- In “The Case for Pay-What-You-Can Synagogue Dues” on Jewish parenting site Kveller, one blogger wrote a personal reflection about the many factors that families consider when weighing the cost and benefit of joining a synagogue – and why the potential upside for congregations seems worth the risk.
- The Sun-Sentinel recently reported that Temple Beth Orr of Coral Springs, FL, became the first congregation in South Florida to adopt a voluntary dues commitment model.
And that’s not all. In February, SYNERGY, a partnership that “seeks to strengthen synagogues as vital centers of caring, learning, and spiritual renewal,” published a report titled “Are Voluntary Dues Right for Your Congregation?” With more than 1,250 downloads, it’s clear that congregational leaders are in search of reliable resources to help them explore these issues within their own unique communities.
These recent articles are representative of the discussions happening on an organic, grassroots level, too. In fact, a search of the word “dues” in The Tent, the Reform Movement’s online forum for congregational leaders, results in 124 conversations, two dedicated groups, and 151 files on the topic. (We hope you will join these robust and ongoing conversations.)
It’s inspiring to see so many Jewish communities engaging in conversation, experimenting, and trying new strategies. To further the conversation and provide congregations with a tangible resource, the Union for Reform Judaism is proud to publish Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st-Century Congregation: A Report from the 2013-2015 Community of Practice. This new, interactive resource provides tools for congregations to begin this work by codifying the findings of our pilot Community of Practice (CoP) on Re-Imagining Financial Support for your Congregation. Launched in early 2013, the CoP engaged 17 congregations in conversation and innovation in their dues structures. Some communities tried voluntary dues structures, while others took varying approaches to revenue collection.
Reimagining Financial Support details 10 of the best principles derived from these congregations and research into alternative revenue collection. These 10 concepts, which any congregation should consider when reimagining financial support, include such tactics as focusing on engagement, recognizing distinct segments of the population, removing barriers to entry, and aligning any new financial model with the congregation’s vision and values.
Though no one best principle dictates the right approach for any one congregation, thinking through the implications of each will help determine a starting point. Three very different examples illustrate this point:
- The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah in Overland Park, KS, focused on reducing as many barriers to entry to congregational engagement as possible. The proceeds from selling the congregation’s urban synagogue building and instead making its suburban location the congregation’s permanent home made it possible to do away with its customary upfront building fund. In addition, members who now request dues relief will no longer be required to submit their tax information (which don’t give any indication of fixed expenses) or fill out a myriad of forms; instead, they have a friendly conversation with the executive director or a member of the board, who expresses how important the member is to the community and asks what they can do to make membership affordable for them.
- Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, CA, realized that their problem was not their financial model but the way they talked about it – so they changed course. To top donors, they expressed appreciation and then, after reviewing the congregant’s giving history and the impact it made on the congregation, offered the opportunity to make a single annual commitment rather than receiving multiple appeals throughout the year. The majority of top donors took advantage of the opportunity, and total commitments increased by 20% from the previous year. The congregation also targeted a middle tier by identifying their “sustaining amount,” dividing their total operating budget by the total number of members, and encouraging those whose past contributions were near that amount to increase to that level. Finally, recognizing that not everyone can give at the same level, they implemented an “every dollar counts” approach to acknowledging that, as long as a congregant makes a gift that is meaningful to themselves, it is meaningful to the congregation, as well.
- As part of their communication strategy, Congregation Shir Hadash also revealed to congregants that the synagogue was paying $25,000 per year in credit card fees, and then urged members to begin paying by check rather credit card. Making financial matters of the congregation more transparent to everyone in the community helps establish a foundation of trust. When the congregational budget and major financial decisions are visible to everyone, congregants gain a better sense of how their dues or philanthropic gift makes a difference to the health and sustainability of the congregational community. It can also lend credibility both to specific requests for support and to the case that leaders make for changing the financial support system.
The URJ is now in the process of launching a second Community of Practice on this topic with a new cohort of congregations. We look forward to sharing the results of their learning and experimentation with all congregations who are considering changes to the way they collect revenue.
Workshop sessions related to this topic will also be offered at the URJ Biennial 2015, taking place November 4-8 in Orlando, FL. In the meantime, we encourage you to add your questions, comments, and experiences either in the comments below, or join the discussion in the Finances group in The Tent, the URJ’s online platform for congregational leaders.
Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st Century Congregation is one in a series of three publications that helps leaders strengthen their congregations by offering best principles and a range of resources. The others are Paving the Road to Meaningful Young Adult Engagement and Engaging Families with Young Children.
Jessica Ingram, manager of the URJ’s Communities of Practice, also contributed significantly to this post, as well as to the creation of Reimagining Financial Support for your 21st-Century Congregation: A Report from the 2013-2015 Community of Practice.
A madrasa in Pakistan is proving that an Islamic school can offer a useful education while avoiding politics and extremism; members of the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York say singing as a group feeds their souls and creates community; and after a month of fasting, Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day festival of food and friendship.
The post A Different Islamic School; Singing in a Chorus; Eid al-Fitr appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
Volunteers in the Choral Society at New York’s Grace Church say that choral singing feeds the soul, brings joy, and creates community. “To me, the choir is really a microcosm of what a community ought to be. People are not worried about status within their social position or their family hierarchy. What they are worried about is all together singing D major,” says music director John Maclay.Read an excerpt from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others by Stacy Horn, who sings in the Choral Society:
“I believe that all the arts, and especially music, are necessary to a full life,” Ralph Vaughn Williams said. Music will show you what to do with your life.” I’ll take it even further. Music, this choir, in some ways is my life. We all need a way off the couch or the floor; a way to embrace the fall or whatever else life brings. When I joined the choir I was only looking to soothe a broken heart. Instead I found something that invariably transcends every misfortune I’ve faced and makes me happy. Every week, music dependably and effectively silences my roulette wheel of worry and self-doubt, and that is not a small thing. Nor is it the only thing.
“When I think about who my closest friends are,” my fellow soprano Lucia Rivieccio told me, “they are all people I’ve met in choir or met through people in choir…just the opportunity to meet so many different kinds of people. It can be a bit of a ragtag group, some people can be really annoying, others I don’t know very well but like very much, and some I just adore. But I wouldn’t want to lose even one.”
“Ordinary human beings can do extraordinary things,” [Choral Society of Grace Church conductor John Maclay] once e-mailed us. “Belief is necessary—not in any one creed or religion, or in religion at all—but belief in yourself and in each other.”
I believe. I believe in singing. Like [musician and composer] Brian Eno, I believe in singing with other people. I know it won’t last forever. “There are people joining the choir now who were born when we first joined,” Barbara pointed out to me once. One by one we will all be replaced. But I hope that like Frits Menschaar, the bass in our choir who was singing right up until the week he died, I will be able to continue singing until the very end. “How long do you plan to sing with this or other choral groups,” I asked the people in my choir. Nancy Tepper’s simple answer summed it up best. “As long as I can.”