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WRJ Central District
Immediate Past President
Chair of Nominating and Finance Committees
Vice Chair of Nominating
1st Vice President
VP Development & Special Projects
VP Marketing & Communication
E. Michigan - Michelle Simpson
W. Michigan - Lucy Gersten
Southwest - Alison Auerbach
South - Sandy Heymann
Central Ohio - Lisa Kalson
West - Charlene Pfenninger
N. Ohio - Trina Miller
N.E. Ohio - Elaine Frayman
WRJ Board Members
The Central District Speakers Bureau is here to serve YOUR sisterhood!
A district speaker can take your event to the next level!
Contact Lea Coleman,
to find out more!
As I write this, we are just beyond the mid-point of this biennium. What a fabulous, fulfilling and fun first half this has been in Central District! Looking back over this past year, all eight of our areas held successful Area Days, engaging numerous women, many of whom had never experienced a sisterhood gathering outside of her own sisterhood. Spring and summer sisterhood board installations welcomed a slew of new women to the leadership table. In August, we implemented the Central District Caravan, in the hopes of strengthening the connection between our sisterhoods and Central District. The first caravan visited the Federation of Jewish Women of United Hebrew Congregation in Terre Haute, IN, and the other travelled to Beth El Sisterhood in Knoxville, TN. Our Executive Committee convened in Columbus, OH in October to deliberate over the business of Central District, previously meeting via conference call in both January and August. At the October meeting we formed task forces to address the expansion of district scholarship opportunities, as well as to address strategic planning for a large gift of Judaica items bequeathed to us by Anshe Hesed Sisterhood in Erie PA. We welcomed a new affiliate to Central District, our 36th (double chai!), Congregation Beth Shalom Sisterhood in Carmel, IN. Last January, Central District was represented by 13 women at the Fried Leadership Conference in Austin, TX, and this past November, 46 of our women attended the WRJ 2015 Assembly in Orlando, FL. (See the WRJ Assembly Highlights below.) At the local level, our 36 sisterhoods have held a vast array of great programs worthy of recognition and of sharing from community to community. At the WRJ Assembly, a number of our sisterhoods were recognized and honored for programming (Or Ami - Light of Our People- Awards) and YES Fund giving levels (See article below). What we have accomplished together is inspirational!
So here we are, at the start of the second half of this biennium. Already, three exciting district gatherings are in the works. Our Central District Retreat (Kallah) will be held April 15-17, 2016 at Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI). The theme, "Rites, Rituals and Ruach", will be enhanced by our special weekend guests, WRJ Past President Rosanne Selfon, WRJ Manager, Program and Affiliate Services Heather Lorgeree, and HUC-JIR Rabbinic Intern Jessica Wainer. (See Kallah flyer and registration form link below.) April 29-May 1st, also at GUCI, is the inaugural Sisterhood Service Retreat, a collaboration of Central District and GUCI Alumnae. This is a "roll-up-your-sleeves" work weekend sprinkled with fun, friendship, and learning about one another's communities. November 3-6th is our District Convention in Louisville, KY. Watch for details, and get ready as "WRJ Central Rocks the Boat" with WRJ Guest Speaker, Vice President fredi Bleeker-Franks.
Now is the time to pat yourself on the back for noteworthy programming in your sisterhood/women's group, and make sure that someone among you is engaged in submitting applications to our Awards Program. (Read below for details regarding this very special program honoring sisterhoods and individuals throughout Central District.) How wonderful it would be if all 36 sisterhoods participated!
"The Future is Ours to Create". At the start of a New Year, whether secular or Jewish, we find ourselves making New Year's resolutions. What resolutions will we make as we begin 2016? What role will each of us play as we create the future of our sisterhoods/women's groups? Offering to take on a task, making phone calls, suggesting and implementing a new program idea, stepping up to the leadership table, and most importantly, welcoming new women into our circle of sisters; through these actions and so many more, each one of us has the power to create the future of Central District. Stronger together, let's do it.
Yours in Sisterhood,
WRJ 2015 Assembly Highlights
Central District was well represented at the WRJ 2015 Assembly in Orlando, FL, November 4th-8th, with 46 of our women in attendance. Listed below are just a few of the incredible highlights from our time together.
- Friday's credentials reported attendance of 400 women from 167 sisterhoods/women's groups from 5 countries.
- We heard from and presented the Jane Evans Pursuit of Justice Award to Lilly Ledbetter, author of the book "Grace and Grit". She's the inspirationfor the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
- We attended an array of workshops addressing leadership, membership, programming, finances, personal and spiritual growth, social action and advocacy, and more.
- We voted to accept Constitutional Revisions that now allow for individual membership in WRJ, and that allow for independence to hold the North American meetings of our Legislative Body separate from the URJ Biennials.
- At our plenaries, we passed three Resolutions that included topics on Distracted Driving, Pay Equity and Paid Family Medical Leave.
- We celebrated Shabbat with 5,000 of our closest friends and allies.
- At the YES Fund lunch we raised over $100,000 on behalf of our YES Fund recipients.
- At the WRJ Installation, we welcomed 5 new WRJ board members from Central District, along with two others who will serve on the WRJ Executive Committee.
- In a joint plenary with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) we were privileged to hear Vice President Joe Biden.
- Most importantly, we had FUN! We made connections; we reunited with old friends, and we made a wealth of new friends with whom we continue to take this WRJ journey.
"District Time" Highlights
During the WRJ 2015 Assembly, each of the eight districts gathered for their own "District Time". Here are the highlights from ours.
- We were visited by WRJ President Blair Marks, WRJ 1st Vice President Susan Bass,
WRJ Vice President fredi-Bleeker Franks, and WRJ Executive Director Rabbi
- Honors were presented to the award winning sisterhoods in our district. Please see the Central District website for a complete list of winners and honorees
- Sandy Adland shared highlights from the president and goings-on in the district
- Charter and gavel were presented to Congregation Beth Shalom, Carmel, IN - Central District's newest affiliate. The presentation was made by WRJ President Blair Marks to Charlene Pfenninger, current president of the new sisterhood.
- 1st VP Sheilah Abramson-Miles announced the dates and times of the Kallah at GUCI, April 15-17, 2016 and the dates of the District Convention in Louisville, KY, November 3-6, 2016!
- First-timers were recognized.
- Outgoing WRJ Board of Directors member Karen Sim was recognized and thanked for her many years of service to WRJ and Central District.
- All of the women present shared ideas around the tables relating to their choice of "hot topics". Women discussed and brainstormed ideas about programming, membership, and fundraising. Some of the ideas shared included:
- Don't be afraid to think outside the box in all three areas.
- Decide how you are going to measure the success of a program or campaign before it occurs. Set realistic expectations and see how you measure up to your goals.
- Involve different groups of women in an activity so that they have buy-in and will be invested in the success of a program.
- Have programming that represents the needs of different demographic groups. All programs need not attract every group.
- Incorporate the social in social action. Make things fun!
- Have a running theme such as a signature beverage at your events.
- Say "Thank you"!
- Ask the different women in your sisterhood what they want from the organization. Try using a free, online survey service like surveymonkey.com.
- Share your ideas with other women on Yammer. There are great ideas out there and you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
- As a group Social Action project, the women attending our "District Time" brought new bras, panties and children's underwear to be collected and donated to Harbor House, Orlando's domestic violence shelter.
The WRJ YES Fund
What the YES Fund Does and Our District's YES FUND Awards
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), through its Youth, Education, & Special Projects Fund, has given $370,200 in grants that will strengthen the Reform Movement and provide the tools necessary for religious, social, and educational growth in North America, in Israel, and around the world.
The 2015 WRJ YES Fund grants were awarded to the following organizations and programs:
- URJ-WRJ PJ Library Partnership, $50,000: This program supports congregations/sisterhoods in small communities throughout North America in implementing this Jewish family engagement program that mails free, high-quality Jewish children's books and music to families with children aged six months to eight years old on a monthly basis.
- NFTY6 Project, $25,000: This multi-year $75,000 grant was made in honor of NFTY's 75thAnniversary to support engaging 6th graders in peer-led programs.
- World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Youth Programs, $15,000: This grant supports camps in the FSU, youth programs in South America, and travel to Israel for South African youth.
- URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy Scholarships for Girls, $10,000: For the third year, WRJ will help encourage and support the participation of girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, which have traditionally been male-dominated, through these camp scholarships.
- HUC-JIR Student Scholarships, $72,000: This grant covers half-tuition for two students at each North American campus (NYC, Cincinnati, L.A.) for any program (cantorial, rabbinical, education, communal service).
- Oversees Rabbinical Scholarships, $40,000: These scholarships support rabbinical students studying at Leo Baeck College (London) and Abraham Geiger College (Germany) who will serve Reform and Progressive communities outside of North America and Israel upon ordination.
- Leo Baeck College (London) Library Renovation, $36,000: This grant will help the seminary renovate its library, properly house its rare book collection, and develop its Beit Midrash learning center for rabbinical students.
- WUPJ Machon Program, $18,000: Part of a multi-year $36,000 grant to train rabbis and other Jewish professionals from the FSU who will serve their home communities upon ordination.
- HUC-JIR (Jerusalem) Israel Rabbinical Program, $18,000: This grant supports the rabbinical training of Israeli students who will serve Israeli Reform communities upon ordination.
- HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Cantorial Prize, $1,000: Given annually, this award is presented to a deserving cantorial student.
- WRJ HUC-JIR Faculty Award, $1,800: Established in honor of Rabbi David Ellenson upon his retirement as HUC-JIR President, this biennial award is given to an HUC-JIR faculty member who has supported WRJ or whose work embodies WRJ's mission.
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) Eisendrath Legislative Assistant (Washington, D.C.), $25,000: This year-long fellowship allows a recent college graduate interested in Judaism, social justice, and policy to work on WRJ's social justice legislative priorities and initiatives.
- Kibbutz Lotan (Israel) Expansion, $25,000: Part of a multi-year $50,000 gift to fully fund 1 of 12 new student housing units at this integrated, holistic community that strives to balance sustainability in everyday life.
- Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Mother-Daughter Bat Mitzvah Program, $18,000: This program, which aligns with WRJ and IMPJ's emphasis on gender equality, empowers young girls and strengthens their Jewish identity by emphasizing equality, life transitions, and connection to Judaism and the community.
- Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), $10,000: This grant supports advocacy efforts on behalf of religious pluralism, women, and vulnerable populations in Israel.
- The Torah: A Modern Commentary Translation into Portuguese, $5,400: Nearly 35 years after the publication of the first English language liberal Torah commentary, this grant will help translate The Torah: A Modern Commentary into Portuguese for the growing Reform community in Brazil.
The YES (Youth, Education & Special Projects) Fund represents the collective financial efforts of individual donors and WRJ sisterhoods to strengthen the Reform Movement and ensure the future of Reform Judaism. Congratulations to our Central District sisterhoods who achieved YES Fund Awards and Honor Roll levels in 2014-2015!
Three of our Central District sisterhoods received YES Awards during the WRJ Assembly in Florida this past November. The Women of Temple Israel, Columbus, OH, received Honorable Mentions in two categories, including the Achat Award Category, given to the sisterhood that made the largest per-member direct contribution to the YES Fund over the last two fiscal years, and the Avodah Award Category, given to one sisterhood in each membership size category that made the largest direct contribution to the YES Fund over the last two fiscal years. Also receiving Honorable Mentions in the Avodah Award Category, for sisterhoods with over 450 members, were Temple Israel Sisterhood, of West Bloomfield, Mi, and Isaac M. Wise Temple Sisterhood, of Cincinnati, Ohio.
WRJ also acknowledges sisterhoods with several honor roll levels, based on contributions and membership. Achieving the Roll of Chai honor, which represents a contribution of at least $18 per member, is Women of Temple Israel, Columbus, OH.
Achieving the Roll of Special Merit, which represents a contribution of at least $10 per member, are Temple Adath Israel Sisterhood, Lexington, KY; Temple Israel Sisterhood, Canton, OH; The Valley Temple Sisterhood, Cincinnati, OH; Temple Beth Shalom Sisterhood, Hudson, OH; Temple Israel Sisterhood, Marion, OH; and B'nai Sholom Congregation, Huntington, WV.
Achieving the Roll of Honor, which represents a contribution of at least $5 per member, are Temple Israel Sisterhood, West Lafayette, IN; Temple Beth Emeth Sisterhood, Ann Arbor, MI; Congregation Shaarey Zedek, East Lansing, MI; Temple Israel Sisterhood, West Bloomfield, MI; Temple Kol Ami Sisterhood, West Bloomfield, MI; Temple Israel Sisterhood, Akron, OH; Isaac M. Wise Temple Sisterhood, Cincinnati, OH; The Women of Beth Shalom, New Albany, OH; and Temple Beth El Sisterhood, Knoxville, TN.
Mazel Tov to all of these sisterhoods for their continued support of the WRJ YES Fund. Central District takes great pride in these efforts!
- Pamela Feldman-Hill
- Central District YES Fund Chair
Please Consider Your Outstanding Women as Nominees!
Sisterhoods as well as individual sisterhood members will be honored with the awards listed below at our WRJ Central District Convention in Louisville, KY November 3-6, 2016. As leaders in your sisterhood, please take a few minutes to read through the award categories and begin considering nominees for your sisterhood or individuals. Award applications are due by August 1st, 2016.
Individual sisterhoods may apply for both the Innovative Programming Award and the President's Award and may submit an application for more than one program in either category. Award entries in each of those two categories are separated by size of sisterhoods: small (199
members); medium (100299 members); and large (300+ members).
In addition, every sisterhood may select one of its members to receive a Deborah Honor in recognition of service to her sisterhood. Finally, one woman from within the Central District will be chosen for the District Emerging Leader Award: nominations for the District Emerging Leader Award can be received from any Sisterhood for any woman in the district.
Award Categories - the following is a summary of each award
District Emerging Leader Award:
One sisterhood woman from within the Central District will receive this award. A sisterhood may nominate a woman who exemplifies the strengths and has shown the skills, abilities, and willingness to accept a leadership role in her sisterhood, Central District, or WRJ in the recent time frame. This should be someone new to a leadership role.
Innovative Programming Award:
This award recognizes a sisterhood in each of the categories of small, medium, and large for an innovative, energizing, and original program.
The Central District President determines the theme of this award. This biennial, the President's Award recognizes a sisterhood in each of the categories of small, medium and large for an outstanding program or event on the theme "Limdu Heiteiv WRJ's Anthem". This anthem is based on the words of Isaiah 1:17 " Learn to do good, seek justice; relieve the oppressed. Uphold the orphan's rights; take up the widow's cause." Examples of programs illustrating the above biblical verse could include but are not limited to aiding under served populations, social justice issues (i.e. pay equity, immigration reform, paid family leave), women's and children's issues, etc.
This award recognizes one woman from each sisterhood who has demonstrated extraordinary service and commitment to both sisterhood and Judaism based upon criteria established by the sisterhood. Each woman nominated by her sisterhood to receive the Deborah Honor will be given a Deborah certificate.
This reward is given to the sisterhood winning awards in all categories: the District Emerging Leader Award, the Innovative Programming Award and the President's Award.
The three (small, medium, and large) sisterhoods winning the Innovative Programming Award, the three (small, medium, and large) sisterhoods winning the President's Award, and the one woman winning the District Emerging Leader Award will each receive a Chai Five or a $90 credit toward a district event to be used on or before the next District Convention.
Programs must occur between November 2014 and November 2016. The deadline to submit an application is August 1, 2016.
Applications will be available online this spring.
Please contact Jan Muhlbaum, WRJ Central District Awards Chair at (513) 252-3545 or email email@example.com .
Please submit articles for the April issue of Isha L'Isha
on or before March 15, 2016.
It is very exciting to learn about all the great things going on in our district.
Keep the good things coming!
WRJ Central District