Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley (TEMV) was one of eight winners from across North America of the 2019 Union for Reform Judaism’s Belin Awards. The Belin Awards are presented to congregations who represent audacious hospitality with creative, original, and outstanding initiatives that welcome seekers and engage prospective and current congregants.
Eight winners were awarded $1,000 funded through the generosity of David Belin, z’’l, the first chair of the URJ-CCAR Joint Commission on Outreach and Membership. Ten other congregations received honorable mentions for their exceptional programs. All will be honored this December in Chicago, Ill., at the URJ Biennial, attended by more than 5,000 Jewish leaders from the Reform Movement.
TEMV won the award for its “LGBTQ Uninitiative”—the collective things it does to help LGBTQ members and their families feel welcome and supported. Rather than being a specific initiative or program, LGBTQ inclusion at TEMV is simply, in the words of one LGBTQ member, “How we roll.” This manifests itself in many ways, including an everyday environment of understanding and respect; thoughtfully inclusive observances of life cycle events such as weddings, baby namings, and b’nai mitzvah; inclusive membership forms and restroom signage; pronoun stickers for name tags; and social action activities in support of LGBTQ equality.
Dana Rudolph, publicity chair and a trustee of TEMV’s board, said, “This award reflects what I have long felt as a lesbian and a member of the congregation—that LGBTQ people are not merely accepted at TEMV, but actively included as part of the diversity of our community. I am proud that my spouse and I saw our son become a bar mitzvah here. Being given an award during LGBTQ Pride Month for our efforts towards LGBTQ inclusion makes it extra special.”
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said, “The Belin Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding leadership in what must be our highest priority—helping more people create deeper, richer, and more meaningful Jewish lives. I have called this work Audacious Hospitality, which encompasses the core Jewish values around welcoming guests (hachnasat orchim), having an open tent (ohel patuach), lovingkindness (chesed), and respect (kavod). These exemplary communities promote a welcoming, inclusive Judaism, and we applaud their creative approaches.”