Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism may have just celebrated sixty years as a congregation, but in many ways we have entered into a period of adolescence as an institution. This year marks our twelfth year under my guidance. During these 12 years our congregation has grown in numbers and has radically expanded its strategies for social, spiritual and communal engagement.
In just twelve short years, our focus as a community has evolved, and our efforts to define ourselves as a unique and special place in the Houston Jewish community echoes that of the identity shifts that take place in adolescence. This nascent period in our evolution is most profoundly articulated in the ever unfolding story of our religious school.
Twelve years ago, our religious school had a total of seventeen students ranging from kindergarten through high school. Our grade levels were so small that we re-envisioned the entire religious school experience. A project-centered curriculum was developed to engage our children in an educational experience which was dynamic and fun. As we grew in size, this learning experience proved to be a driving force in the development of a strong community of dedicated learners and teachers. It also set us apart from Sunday school programs around the country.
Today, our Sunday School has over 150 students, and as our teen population has grown, new challenges to our programming have emerged. Three years ago, we hired Michelle Renfrow to help us develop a youth group. Under her direction, we have successfully engaged a number of outstanding teens to become leaders in the Reform Movement. This October, Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism will have the distinct honor of hosting the NFTY Fall Conclave, which is usually hosted by congregations twice our size. This is an event that will demand the help of our entire congregation. Please see details below.
This rapid growth of our teen population is now a driving force in the re-imagination of the Confirmation experience and beyond. To assist us in this process, we have hired Marna Meyer, an amazing veteran in the field of Jewish Education who served as the Director of Education at Congregation Emanu El in Houston for 24 years. Marna’s creativity, love of Judaism and expertise in the field are playing a central role in helping us pave an amazing new direction for our high school aged students. She is a wonderful new addition to our religious school staff, and we look forward to an amazing hear ahead.