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United Synagogue reorganizing to build efficiency

NEW YORK (JTA) — The umbrella organization for Conservative synagogues is restructuring, its new chief executive said.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, who has been on the job as the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism’s executive vice president and CEO for barely two months, told JTA on Thursday that the organization is reducing the number of regions from 15 to six and eliminating five positions in the main office, with more layoffs likely to come.

The restructuring is pending final approval from the organization’s board, which is slated to meet Sunday.

The aim is to make United Synagogue smaller and better, Wernick said.

Member synagogues have long complained they don’t get enough value for their dues.

Wernick says he wants to reform an unwieldy organization that is "over-institutionalized," with a bloated board and insufficient accountability.

The proposed governance and structural changes are aimed at granting Wernick more authority while also making the organization, which has long been a poster child for the Conservative movement’s ills, more directly accountable to the congregations who pay the dues.

"The fundamental goal of United Synagogue has to be strengthening synagogues," Wernick said.

With many young Conservative Jews falling off the map between college and having children, the reorganization intends to place programming for youth and young adults under one heading and provide "seamless programming" as individuals progress from one age group to the next.

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