NEW YORK (JTA) – The Conservative movement’s synagogue association released a draft strategic plan calling for a narrowing and streamlining of its functions.
The plan is a joint product of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and Hayom, a coalition of Conservative leaders that emerged in 2009 to demand fundamental reforms.
The draft strategy urges the synagogue association to focus on three functions: strengthening congregations; creating an integrated educational system; and seeding new congregations and congregational leadership. It also calls for the development of new philanthropic sources and the reduction of synagogue dues.
"As we enter a second century of Conservative Judaism, this plan calls for significant changes in focus and leadership and dramatic improvement in the way United Synagogue partners with its congregations and others across North America,” said Rabbi Steven Wernick, USCJ’s chief executive, in a statement.
Hayom had complained that the USCJ was not providing adequate services to synagogues.
The plan calls for reconceptualizing the United Synagogue constituency — from synagogues to kehillot, or sacred communities — a nod toward the many informal movement-inspired groups that don’t formally identity with the USCJ.
Rabbi Michael Siegel, the Chicago rabbi who helped initiate Hayom, said the plan’s implementation would “go a long way toward demonstrating the value of United Synagogue and restoring the confidence of member congregations.”
Once the country’s dominant Jewish stream, Conservative Judaism has been in decline since the 1960s, a trend that has given rise to much hand wringing among the leadership and which was starkly acknowledged in the report.