Rabbi Richard Jacobs tapped to lead Reform movement

NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Richard Jacobs, spiritual leader of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., is the choice to become the new leader of the Union for Reform Judaism.

The selection of Jacobs to succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who announced last year that he would be retiring in 2012 after 16 years at the helm of American Jewry’s largest religious movement, still requires formal approval by the union’s board of directors, which meets in June.

“We are poised for a great new chapter for the unfolding of our movement,” Jacobs told JTA in an interview Tuesday shortly before the union’s formal announcement. The Reform movement, he said, is about “finding new ways to grow and respond to Jewish life.”

One of his main areas of focus, Jacobs said, would be to revitalize synagogues and engage with young professional Jews who are not involved in Jewish communal life.

“Synagogues cannot wait for people to walk into their buildings," he said. "The synagogue has to walk into the public square and engage people, particularly Jews in their 20s and 30s. People still crave and need a deep sense of community.”

Jacobs, who has been at the Westchester Reform Temple in suburban New York since 1991, also is a board member of the New Israel Fund, the American Jewish World Service and UJA-Federation of New York.

Jacobs used to be a dancer and choreographer with the Avodah Dance Ensemble.

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