Reform ponders new funding models

Biennial gathering also progresses well-being and environmental commitments


Representatives of Reform Judaism’s 41 communities made significant commitments on financial sustainability, well-being and the environment at its biennial weekend, Chagigah.

More than 200 people attended the gathering at Eastwood Hall near Nottingham.

They discussed initiatives including a new approach to synagogue finances. Taking the view that the model of funding communities is outmoded, the movement is looking for ways to engage people more so they are minded to make donations or leave legacies to communities.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of Alyth in Golders Green said it was about “fostering relationships with members that help them feel their membership commitments are appreciated — and encouraging them to support their synagogues to be ambitious for Jewish life. Much of this feels obvious but it’s way too common for synagogues to become transactional.”

Progressing the Communities that Care plan launched at Chagigah 2016, the movement committed to adopting the NHS’s five steps to mental well-being.

Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform Synagogue explained: “The scale of issues among our teenagers, adults and the elderly is no different to the national statistics. So we have to rally our communities to act now.”

There was also agreement on an environmental campaign with a target of cutting single-use plastic in communities by 50 per cent by Rosh Hashanah — and by 90 per cent by Rosh Hashanah 2019.

Addressing the closing session, movement chair Geoffrey Marx noted that “Reform Judaism is making an enormous difference, delivering invaluable partnerships and laying the foundations for a bright future”.

Other sessions covered Jewish learning, music, theatre and arts and crafts.

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