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Fain Awards: FAQs

Who is eligible to win a Fain Award?
The Irving J. Fain Award seeks to honor URJ congregations that put Jewish values to work in the world by:

  • Promoting social and economic justice
  • Fostering peace and constructive human relations, globally or locally
  • Relieving the suffering of the persecuted and downtrodden
  • Mobilizing to serve people in times of emergency
  • Defending civil rights and civil liberties

Who was Irving J. Fain?
Irving J. Fain, who passed away in 1970, was a passionate proponent of social justice and of the Reform Movement's active commitment to the work of tikkun olam, and served for a decade as Chairperson of the Commission on Social Action. The Fain Awards, established in 1983 in his honor and memory, are awarded every two years to congregations whose work in the area of social justice is exemplary. Specifically, awards are presented to congregations that have successfully involved large numbers of congregants in their social action programs or that have developed genuinely innovative and/or particularly effective projects.

What if my congregation has already won a Fain Award?
If your congregation won a Fain Award in the last award cycle, you are not eligible to apply for a Fain Award.

What if my congregation previously received an Honorable Mention?
Congregations receiving an Honorable Mention in the preceding cycle are still eligible to apply for a Fain Award.

What kind of programs could receive this award?
We are particularly interested in programs that involve a hands-on service component, educational programming and an advocacy/community-organizing initiative. We're looking for programs that: 

  • Demonstrate creativity
  • Involve a sizeable portion of the congregation
  • Teach the congregation about social problems and Jewish values 
  • Promote effective advocacy and/or community organizing work
  • Build alliances with other community groups across lines of difference
  • Educate the community regarding social issues in which the congregation is involved
  • Are easily replicable (winning programs are lifted up as models for other congregations to follow)


When are applications due?
Applications for the 2017 Fain Awards are now closed. If you are interested in applying for an Award in 2019, please contact Liz Mitlak.

Who selects the winners?
Winning programs will be determined by a special committee of the Commission on Social Action. All eligible Union for Reform Judaism congregations in good standing are invited to apply.

If we win, where and when will we receive the Fain Award?
Fain Awards will be presented at the URJ Biennial. A delegation from your congregation will be invited to collect the award at the conference.

What if I have an infrequently asked question?
Please contact Liz Mitlak, Leadership Development Associate at emitlak@rac.org