One of the most profound ways the coronavirus pandemic impacted the Jewish community in the past year was the initial closure of and subsequent limitations on synagogues.
Now, as more congregants have been vaccinated and individual state regulations on indoor public gatherings have eased, the Orthodox Union is launching a new $100,000 challenge grant designed to support congregations that create innovative programs and services to invigorate synagogues and stimulate congregants to re-embrace synagogue life.
Called “Back to Shul,” grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded to the programs selected, administered through the OU’s Department of Synagogue Initiatives.
“With the pandemic keeping so many away from their synagogues, it is imperative that we think together as a community to reimagine 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 year to re-engage in synagogue life.”
The OU hopes to partner with communities to remind members of the vital aspects of Jewish life that only happen in a synagogue community.
OU executive vice president Rabbi Moshe Hauer said “we are looking to spur thoughtful conversations within synagogues as to how to restore and enhance their vibrancy, and remind 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.”
“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,” explained OU synagogue initiatives director Rabbi Adir Posy. “We are trying to make everyone the beneficiaries of these ideas.”
Applications are due April 30 with awards to be announced on May 14.
Synagogues interested in applying for a grant can obtain information at: www.ou.org/grant21/.