Conservative synagogue body restructures, reduces dues

(JTA) — The umbrella body for Conservative congregations will undergo a major restructuring that includes a significant staff reorganization and dues reductions.

The changes within the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which were announced Tuesday in an internal memo, are part of the organization’s new strategic plan that was released in February.

The strategic plan itself was designed to address concerns that United Synagogue was not providing adequate services to synagogues — a complaint that led to the emergence of the Hayom coalition of dissident Conservative leaders in 2009.

The changes announced in the memo include a broad restructuring of United Synagogue similar to one in 2009 by the Union for Reform Judaism.

The current regional structure will be replaced by “kehilla relationship managers” responsible for the specific concerns of individual congregations, called kehillot.

About 27 percent of United Synagogue’s approximate 115 full-and part-time staff positions will be eliminated or replaced by new positions, with the affected staffers either moving into the new positions or replaced by new hires. The reorganization comes on the heels of a 22 percent staff reduction over the past four years.

Several top positions have been created, including the organization’s first chief operating officer. Others include a chief kehilla officer to oversee the relationship between staff and the individual congregations; a chief learning officer to oversee Conservative Jewish education; a chief resource development and marketing officer; and a chief outreach officer to focus on younger Jews, particularly those in member congregations and minyans.

A 5 percent reduction in dues for the 2011-12 fiscal year will apply only to those congregations that are fully paid up by Dec. 31.

Insiders describe the restructuring as less about saving money and more about addressing the concerns of congregations that say they are not getting enough for their dues.

As part of its enhanced development efforts, United Synagogue says it already has raised $800,000 in new commitments over the next three years. Also over the next three years, the organization plans to train 5,000 lay leaders for its congregations.

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