The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism sent out an email to the presidents of its member synagogues that it was taking steps to cut its budget and make sure it was fiscally responsible during the recession:
These are trying times, and like everyone else we are challenged by them, but I want to assure you that we at United Synagogue are taking concrete steps to transform the challenges into opportunities.
We are extending the process of strategic planning by listening to congregational leaders and asking for your input. Rabbi Epstein, other lay and professional leaders, and I made a special point of visiting all the regions’ conventions this year to learn about local concerns and issues. We left these gatherings with a better understanding of some of the problems you are facing and some of the creative ways you have found to deal with them.
My officers and I also have been able to learn from the constructive comments on the presidents’ listserv. As a result of what we have learned so far, we have begun to make organizational changes that will enable us to help you more quickly, and you can expect more in the near future. We have taken a hard look at our budget. We want our budget process to be more transparent, so I have instructed our treasurer to put the budget in more understandable form and to post it on the web. We are in the process of re-evaluating every program to make certain that every service we offer meets real needs and help builds your congregation for the present and future. If programs are no longer effective and efficient they may be eliminated. We already have had to take the painful step of trimming staff. It is important, though, to make sure that we do not try so hard to streamline that we cut not only fat but muscle as well. We must not mortgage our future for short-term gain.
We are seeking new ways to provide service to our congregations. Because we know how time-consuming and expensive it is to travel, we have begun a series of webinars and conference calls that allow you to participate from home. They are planned to touch on a broad range of topics, and already they have attracted impressive numbers of participants. We are trying to help congregations to deal with the financial crises, not only by providing you with strategies but also by freezing the dues we charge you.
As you know, we soon will have new professional and lay leaders at United Synagogue, and we hope to be ready to move in exciting new directions by laying the groundwork for growth and change now.
You are our partners in making this movement strong. We are committed to working with you to ensure our success.
Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism