Mar 2, 2010



In a precedent-breaking move, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has initiated an ambitious effort to reshape itself into a powerful and effective international entity to strengthen congregations identified with Conservative Judaism.

United Synagogue and Hayom, a coalition of Conservative rabbis, cantors, and congregational leaders, together have created a blue-ribbon strategic planning commission composed of lay and professional leaders drawn from United Synagogue leadership and of congregational leaders and rabbis representing synagogues of all sizes from across the continent. The commission is chaired by Professor Jacob Finkelstein, a congregational leader from Rochester, New York, and Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Encino, California, and includes United Synagogue's president, Richard Skolnik, and Hayom's chair, Rabbi Michael Siegel. Other members of the commission include Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Rabbi Gilah Dror, Ned Gladstein, Dr. Raymond Goldstein, Richard Helfand, Hylton Jonas, Dr. Alisa Rubin Kurshan, Alan Weissman, Dr. Marilyn Wind, and Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue.

The commission has engaged Ukeles Associates, Inc. to direct the analytic work that will support its deliberations. The president of Ukeles Associates, Dr. Jacob B. Ukeles, a highly regarded strategic planning consultant, and Professor Steven M. Cohen, one of the leading Jewish social policy researchers in the United States, will lead the UAI team. Over the past four decades Dr. Ukeles and Professor Cohen have conducted many planning and policy research studies and they are deeply knowledgeable about the Jewish community, Conservative Judaism, Conservative congregations, and United Synagogue. Dr. Ukeles and Professor Cohen have outlined an ambitious and comprehensive work strategy that will lead to a draft of a strategic plan for United Synagogue by the late fall of 2010. The strategic planning process follows a major change in the senior leadership of United Synagogue, with the appointment of Rabbi Steven Wernick as its new executive vice president, as well as a transformation of its organizational structure.

"The work of the commission is the next logical step in the process of re-making United Synagogue into an organization that enables Conservative synagogues to realize their potential for connecting the generations and building communities that welcome and develop Conservative Jews everywhere," Dr. Finkelstein, United Synagogue's vice president for strategic planning, said. "We understand that this process will be challenging but recognize that it is critical in enabling United Synagogue to articulate its vision of the future and to learn how best to realize it."

"We fully recognize the challenges facing Conservative Judaism today, but we're committed to doing whatever is necessary to enable Conservative synagogues to lead a revival of the critical central hub of American Judaism," Professor Cohen said. "We are committed to helping the commission face tough choices and plan bold directions, even if it results in a thorough re-imagining of United Synagogue and its mission," Dr. Ukeles said.

Established in 1913 by Solomon Schechter, United Synagogue serves about 670 Conservative congregations across the United Synagogue, Canada, Mexico, and Latin America, and it is affiliated with Conservative congregations in Israel and Europe. "Solomon Schechter viewed United Synagogue as his greatest bequest to the American Jewish community because he saw in the synagogue the most fertile place to nurture Jewish life and learning in America," Rabbi Feinstein said. "With this process, we intend to rekindle that spirit."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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