Two Bay Area synagogues awarded grants

The Union of Reform Judaism recently announced that 20 Reform congregations across North America are receiving URJ incubator grants for innovative projects seeking to engage more people in synagogue life.

Two of the congregations are in the Bay Area: Temple Sinai in Oakland and Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.

A $3,800 grant to Sinai will go toward programming that reaches out to people who are interested in converting or who want to find out more about the process of converting to Judaism, according to Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin.

The programs will include information on mikvahs, what changes after someone converts, and a mohel speaking about the hatafat dam brit (a ceremony for a convert).

Beth Am’s grant for $3,200 will support “Mikvah Monologues,” a video project that will highlight the stories of members who have converted to Judaism.

Personal testimonials will be recorded and edited to produce a DVD, which will become “a tool for educating and inspiring others,” said Mandy Eisner, director of development at Beth Am.

Sinai has slightly fewer than 1,000 member families, Mates-Muchin said, while Beth Am has 1,450 member families, according to Eisner.

The grants were awarded for three types of projects: creating an environment that supports and encourages conversion; retention and engagement of post–b’nai mitzvah teens and their families; and engagement in synagogue life.

“We are thrilled to offer these grants to member congregations for the second year,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of URJ. “We saw how much the grant process inspired creativity last year and were impressed with the results of each of the award-winning initiatives. Together, we are developing and learning innovative ways to engage people in Reform Jewish life.”