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Richard Jacobs is unanimous choice to head Reform movement

(JTA) — Rabbi Richard Jacobs was unanimously elected to serve as president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Jacobs, the senior rabbi at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., was elected Sunday by the URJ board of trustees. He will assume the presidency in 2012, succeeding Rabbi Eric Yoffie. He was nominated earlier this year.

"As I prepare to leave the congregational rabbinate, I believe more than ever that vibrant synagogues are the key to the Jewish future," Jacobs told the board. "I will be the first URJ president who has spent decades as a congregational rabbi; synagogues are what I know and love."

Jacobs has been attacked by some critics as not being sufficiently pro-Israel for his affiliations with J Street and the New Israel Fund, both left-wing Israel-related organizations. Jacobs, who serves on the NIF board and on the board of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet, has rejected that notion and defended those organizations’ activities on Israel.

In the URJ’s announcement of Jacobs’ appointment, the organization said its new leader would be resigning from all outside board positions "in order to focus his energies on the task ahead of him." However, as president of the URJ, the statement said, Jacobs "will assume many new official posts on Jewish communal organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."

Jacobs becomes the fourth president of the URJ since its creation in 1943. Along with Yoffie, others to hold the post are Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath and Alexander Schindler.

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