On the heels of June’s successful conference on religious school innovation, which brought together nearly 150 religious school lay leaders and staff members from 45 synagogues to address this crucial issue, the Union for Reform Judaism and Builders of Jewish Education have received a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to take next steps to support religious school innovation.

“This conference was not created to be a rinse and repeat conference, finding a particular model and content to be brought back year after year,” said David Lewis and Rachel Margolis, in a thought piece recently featured in eJewishPhilanthropy. Lewis is the Director & Head Consultant of Jewish Education Services at BJE, while Margolis is a Program Director at the Union for Reform Judaism. “The goal of the conference was to cultivate and foster an LA-wide movement to help our religious schools thrive.”

Beginning fall 2017, BJE and the URJ will convene a coalition of interested and ready Los Angeles complementary (part-time) religious schools to further the conversation and help those schools take a deeper dive into the change process. Each participating synagogue will have a different starting point and different goals; each is motivated by a desire to strengthen the Jewish educational experiences of children and families, the ultimate focus of the change process. BJE and URJ staff will help each Religious School set actionable goals through an Individualized Change Program jointly created by the synagogue school’s educator, clergy member, and lay leader. All schools will share a common focus on four basic elements: understanding the needs of children and families, visioning, experimentation, and belief that change is possible.

As expressed in the eJewishPhilanthropy article, “The wind is now officially at the backs of Religious Schools in Los Angeles. Excitedly, this momentum is not only true here.” BJE is part of a network of ten member communities in Shinui: the Network for Innovation in Part-Time Jewish Education. “Together, we are working to spark, nurture, and spread innovation in part-time Jewish education,” said David Lewis.