Reforming the Reform


The Reform movement outlines its reorganization plan:

Union for Reform Judaism Plans Reorganization to Strengthen Congregations and Build the Reform Jewish Future

(New York, March 6, 2009) — The Union for Reform Judaism recently shared with the leaders of its congregations the plans for a new organizational structure that will be voted on by the Board of Trustees at a special meeting March 15.

“This is a time of opportunity for the Union, a moment to put into place a structure that better meets the needs of our congregations while also positioning us to lead a healthy, vibrant Reform Movement in the years and decades ahead,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union.  “It is also a time filled with pain as we are forced to let go of some of our valued staff who are, in a very real sense, family,” he added.

Beginning in December, the president, senior vice president and vice president of the Union began work on a new design for the Union. Their work was informed by in depth input from congregational leaders, and papers and visions solicited from members of the staff and Board of Trustees.

Rabbi Stacy Offner, vice president of the Union and the person in charge of implementing the new structure, is excited by the opportunity to put into place a structure that better meets the needs of the Union’s congregations.

“Congregations need and deserve the best, most effective and efficient support our Reform movement can provide,” Offner said.  “They want simple access to experts and they need us to be aware of and responsive to their unique needs. We believe our new structure will accomplish this.”

The proposed organizational structure will result in changes to Union staff. Among the major changes:

    * The 14 regional offices that currently exist will be replaced with Congregational Support Centers in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.
    * Existing program departments in the New York office will be replaced by teams of specialists cutting across specific areas of expertise.
    * The number of staff in the New York central administrative offices will be reduced and the reporting structure “flattened.”

As part of the proposed restructuring some new roles will be created and approximately 20 percent of the staff positions will be eliminated. Many of the eliminations are due to roles that no longer align with the new structure, while some are the result of budget cuts in response to these difficult economic times.

Rabbi Daniel Freelander, senior vice president of the Union, said the economic downturn is forcing the Union to pare its budget by more than 20 percent, more than had been anticipated when the Union began planning for the restructuring last year.

“Knowing that some roles will be eliminated has made this process extremely difficult,” said Freelander. “Every person at the Union is deeply committed to the Reform Movement, and we, in turn, are deeply committed to them. We have put into place a number of support resources and programs for staff members and will continue to treat our people with dignity, care and respect.”

According to Peter Weidhorn, chairman of the Union’s Board of Trustees, the purpose of the Special Board Meeting on March 15 is to share the plan with the board and to gain its approval to move forward with the next steps.

“We look forward to creating a reorganized Union for Reform Judaism, said Freelander.  “This plan, we believe, outlines a creative collaboration among staff, lay leaders, affiliate and partner organizations and member congregations that will, when fully implemented, establish the framework for a stronger, streamlined and more vital Reform Jewish future.”

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