The Orthodox Union has awarded $100,000 in grants to 35 synagogues in 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province in an effort to bring communities back to shul as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The OU received more than 300 submissions across 34 states from a range of synagogues large and small.

The 35 winners chosen by the OU Grant Committee represent out-of-the-box thinking, coupled with opportunities more likely to rebuild and reaffirm the value of synagogue and community, as well as encourage congregants to return for the long term.

Ideas include hosting a communal Kiddush celebration as a “make-up” for missed milestones, a back-to-synagogue fair and a parlor-meeting project to deconstruct the changed needs of congregants.

“The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us all that the shul experience creates a sense of community that is irreplicable,” said OU president Moishe Bane. “Shul leaders across the country are discovering new ways to bring back our communities stronger than ever—our families, our singles, our seniors and our youth.”

OU synagogue initiatives director Rabbi Adir Posy said “in going through all of the submissions, it became abundantly clear that shuls are seizing the opportunity to re-engage our community in the essential experience that shul offers. We’ve collected so many ideas and put together a database so that shuls of all sizes and from all over the world can have access to this great thinking and utilize it for their own shuls.”

“While we wish we could fund many more shuls as they implement their plans to bring people back, our hope is that this repository of ideas can serve as a launching pad for others,” he added.

A full list of the winning submissions is available at: www.ou.org/grant21.

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