Early Family Engagement Intensive

Wednesday | 1:15 - 2:30 PM

Bridge the Gap From Early Childhood Families to Engaged Congregants 

Discover how to facilitate a seamless and intentional transition for families, from early experiences to fully engaged members of the congregation. Participants will leave this workshop with an understanding of interactive events that introduce young children and their families to celebrating Jewish life, models that successfully transition families from early childhood to congregational life, and the value of sacred partnerships that exist between lay and professional leaders.

  • Rabbi Melissa Buyer-Witman 

  • Dr. Amy Damast

  • Susan Ellenby

  • Lisa Samick

  • Jennie Schacher-Rubin

  • Rachel Stein 

Wednesday | 3:00 - 4:15 PM

Spark Soulful Tot Shabbats: Intergenerational Experiences

Multi-generational programming, including Tot Shabbat, can capture the full spirit of Jewish life, sparking soulful connection of generations through prayer, song, ritual, and community. Participants will leave this workshop with an understanding of trends in Tot Shabbat practices, new ideas for programs that activate the senses and emotionally connect multiple generations to Judaism. Come learn strategies to create meaningful moments that foster authentic long-term personal and congregational relationships.

  • Maxine Handelman 

  • Ellen Allard 

  • Dr. Emily Teck 

Wednesday | 3:00 - 4:15 PM

Pave the Way to Leadership for New Parents!

We have a unique opportunity to inspire confidence and competence in parents as they begin their leadership journey. When they are empowered to connect, share stories, and take ownership, they can and will become leaders in our congregations. Come learn about the innovative and successful Parent Ambassador programs of the Chicago Jewish Federation (JUF), including PJ Library, Chicago jBaby and Right Start.


  • Etty Dolgin 

  • Rebecca Frazin 

  • Fern Katz 

  • Rachel Rapoport 

Thursday | 9:00 - 10:15 AM

Eye on the “Why”: What’s Relevant and Meaningful to Families with Young Children

We live in a fast-paced world where families are pulled in a million different directions. To fully engage them in our communities, it’s crucial that we provide relevance and add value to their lives. Participants will leave this workshop with an understanding of what sparks the interest and meets the needs of the members of today’s diverse families raising young children; how to connect that to your congregation’s “why”; and models for engaging and retaining young families by focusing on meaningful experiences beyond congregational membership.


  • Rabbi Jonathan Cohen 

  • Debbi Cooper

  • Summer Jacobs

  • Lori Kowit

  • Meredith Lewis

Thursday | 9:00 - 10:15 AM

Life Cycle Events: A Tool to Strengthen Relationships

Congregations are uniquely positioned to engage with families to strengthen relationships and ensure feelings of support and belonging – especially during life cycle events. Learn best principles for creating deep connections and develop a heightened sensitivity to building meaningful, transformative relationships with individuals, couples, and families, especially among those who may feel marginalized.


  • Cherene Radis 

  • Susie Wexler 

Thursday | 3:45 - 5:00 PM

The Art of Gathering: How to Build a Congregational Community Anywhere

In two Queens, NY, neighborhoods with no Reform Jewish presence, we reached out to thousands of unaffiliated families and orchestrated two successful family Shabbat events. Does this experiment inspire you to rethink engagement efforts in your own community? Together we’ll explore the design and implementation process and how a culture of experimentation made it possible. Participants will leave the workshop with a framework to design gatherings; a viable example that connects why with every facet of how, when, who, and where; and a model for donor engagement and stewardship.

  • Kadie Black

  • Stephanie Fink 

  • Shira Kline 

Friday | 9:00 - 10:15 AM

Beyond Tot Shabbat: Multi-Generational Community-Building 

Tot Shabbat is a welcoming bridge to multi-generational spiritual and communal experiences, offering an opportunity to build relationships, connect to a larger community, and create entryways for adults who bring their little ones. Learn about research, best principles, and congregational success stories that speak to the power of a well-supported, meaningfully crafted tot worship experience.

  • Ellen Allard

  • Shira Kline

  • Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg

  • Dr. Emily Teck

Friday | 9:00 - 10:15 AM

Leveraging the Rich Diversity of Early Childhood Centers

The families and staff of congregations’ early childhood education centers are richly diverse, making the centers ideal settings in which to model and grow Jewish sacred spaces that honor, respect, and welcome all. Learn about opportunities presented by changing populations in early childhood families and education center employees; study congregations successfully navigating these 21st century communities; and explore models that embrace and integrate the unique contributions of educators and families into the larger community.

  • Denise Moyes-Schnur 

  • Laurie Thomas 

  • Margie Zeskind

Friday | 2:00 - 3:15 PM

All Together Now: Bringing Gen Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers Together

To build a culture of belonging across four adult generations – Gen Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers – it’s important to explore the questions teens, young adults, and families with young children are asking their parents and grandparents, including “Why be Jewish?” Participants will leave the session with insights into recent research on grandparents; needs of 20s and 30s, both with and without children; strategies to move from institution-focused to person-centered engagement; and the URJ’s “Big Questions” project, a powerful tool to engage people in all stages of life.

  • Rabbi Adam Grossman 

  • Cathy Rolland

Friday | 2:00 - 3:15 PM

Build a World of Wholeness, Compassion and Justice with Today's Families with Young Children

Strong partnerships between congregations and early childhood programs help family members become responsible citizens of our world. Learn to articulate and emphasize the core values, ethical ideals, and commitment to social justice that are at the heart of Reform Judaism, as well as examine programs for families with young children that help them understand themselves, the world, and their responsibilities within it.

  • Christopher Cheniae

  • Shelly Sender

  • Rabbi Seth Limmer