Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

UAHC Launches Campaign of ‘outreach’ Aimed at Conversion

December 9, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), representing 750 Reform synagogues in the United States and Canada, launched today a campaign of “outreach” aimed at “spreading the message of Judaism” to non-Jewish partners in mixed marriages, to the children of such marriages and “to persons of no religious preference.” The action was taken at the UAHC 56th biennial convention attended by some 4,000 delegates here. The five-day conclave ended today.

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, UAHC president, hailed the action of the convention, which adopted a series of recommendations offered by a joint task force of the UAHC and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the association of Reform rabbis, headed by David Belin, a Des Moines lawyer, and Rabbi Max Shapiro of Minneapolis, Minn.

The task force was formed following an address by Schindler to the UAHC board of trustees in December, 1978, calling on Reform congregations to become “champions of Judaism,” by taking “affirmative action to make Judaism available to those within our midst and to the unchurched across America.”

Following the vote, Schindler said today that the UAHC would move promptly in three main areas to implement the task force recommendations to:

1. welcome recent converts — so-called “Jews by Choice” — into Jewish communal life;

2. encourage non-Jewish spouses in mixed-marriages to become involved in synagogue activities, and raise their children as Jews; and

3. organize reading rooms and to provide educational materials, including books, pamphlets, video tapes and films, to make information about Judaism available to “all those who have a spiritual hunger.”


An out-reach program guide, just published by the UAHC, gives a description of the “target audience” for such a program to attract non-Jews.

It cites those individuals who are not members of any religious group and who see themselves as having fallen away from the religion into which they were born.

“We do not envision a ‘missionary’ campaign of knocking on doors or doing any aggressive solicitation,” the UAHC program guide states. “We are not trying to win people away from their religions, nor are we offering the one true path to salvation.”

“We are rather envisioning an effort geared toward teaching what Judaism is and letting the public know that Judaism welcomes those who embrace it.”

The program guide was written by Lydia Kukoff, program consultant to the task force, and herself a “Jew by choice,” who converted to Judaism 20 years ago. Mrs. Kukoff is the author of a new book just published by the UAHC, “Choosing Judaism,” and the producer of a 30-minute video tape in which recent converts to Judaism explain their reasons for converting and describe their experiences as new Jews. The video tape will be made available to member synagogues of the UAHC.

Programs for recent converts and for non-Jewish spouses in interfaith marriages have been undertaken by Reform synagogues on an experimental basis within the past year with growing success, according to Mrs. Kukoff.

Recommended from JTA