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A Word From Rabbi Pressman—Something New! 16-May-11

A Word From Rabbi Pressman—Something New!

Once upon a time, in a different media era, I wrote a column every month for the Beth David Star. The Star is no longer, but I miss the opportunity to communicate thoughts and news. So today begins a new version of “From the Rabbi.” Every Monday Rabbi Ohriner and I will alternate with a column. It will be brief and will often have links to other information. We hope you will enjoy hearing from us, and, as always, we welcome your comments.

My topic today is the changes going on in the Conservative Movement. For the past few years, the Jewish press has focused on our supposed decline and our institutional problems. I have felt all along that these were overblown. Our movement has many vital synagogues, inspirational Rabbis and teachers, and committed members. Our ideas about moderate, egalitarian traditional Judaism have in many important ways become the mainstream of American Jewish life. (For more on this, see my sermon: Rosh Hashanah Day 1 5771/2010.)

 However, organizationally, we have not been as effective as we could and should.

But there is good news: over the past few years, there have been great changes in our movement. The Jewish Theological Seminary, our flagship rabbinical school, is now lead by Dr. Arnold Eisen. The United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism (USCJ) appointed Rabbi Steven Wernick as its new Executive Vice President and CEO, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld now leads the Rabbinical Assembly. This has provided the opportunity for all three organizations to do some soul-searching, reflection, and renewal. In addition, we have launched the Magen Tzedek project, an ethical certification for kosher food.

The changes have been particularly dramatic for the United Synagogue. After a year of self-study with a consulting team, a commission that included our own Margie Pomerantz suggested major changes which were adopted by a by a lopsided majority of the United Synagogue Board.

Among the highlights: 

  • USCJ will collaborate with JTS and Camp Ramah to create a fully integrated education and implementation plan.
  • A continental-wide leadership development program will begin; a new advisory committee of major philanthropists and thought leaders is being formed; and more effective marketing of economy-of-scale programs will be employed.
  • An ad hoc governance committee to create new bylaws and recruit new USCJ leadership will be established.
  • USCJ staff will be reduced to effect substantial annual savings; field staff and District leaders will be reassigned as program staff, Kehillah Representatives and Executive Volunteers; an HR Toolbox will be rolled out and a strategic review of the Fuchsberg Center will be initiated. 

What does all this mean for you? We are a vital movement, American and world Jewry need us and our message, and exciting changes are happening. You can find links below to further information.

New Jewish Theological Seminary Mission Statement

USCJ Strategic Plan information

Magen Tzedek