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Chairman's Perspective: Reenvisioning Our Movement

Ellen Marc/
What will the Jewish community look like when your grandchildren are your age?

Never before has this question been as urgent as it is now, when there are limitless ways
to be Jewish and belonging to a synagogue is no longer the primary way of identifying
with the community.

Today, fewer than one third of American Jews join a synagogue—and many of them belong because their children are still young. A large number of Jews do not feel obligated to ensure Jewish survival—and those who do care to be Jewishly engaged have a number of options beyond the synagogue’s walls.

In the past, in contrast, more of today’s senior community members heeded their parents’ exhortation that it was their individual responsibility to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people. They dutifully sent their children to religious school, inculcated Jewish values, supported the congregation, and celebrated the Jewish holidays in their homes and synagogues. They didn’t drop out of synagogue after their last child reached 13, which has become the norm for too many of today’s parents.

Nowadays, we can no longer depend on “individual responsibility” to guarantee our synagogues’ futures. If we are to have vibrant Jewish communities that will help our grandchildren live rich, productive Jewish lives, the institutions of our Movement must lead the way. No individual and no single community can go it alone. We need to find the collective wisdom and creativity to reshape, redefine, and re-envision our Movement with the synagogue community at its very center.

It takes time to turn a ship around, but we do not have the luxury of time on our side. That is why the leaders of our Movement’s institutions—the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis—are calling on the best minds of our Movement to help. We firmly believe that the Reform Movement, which has always embraced change, can meet the challenge.

This December, when we gather for our 2011 Biennial, we will have selected a new president and a new chairman of the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees to lead us through this challenging period in our Movement’s history. They will need your ideas and your support.

To secure the future of the Jewish people and strengthen our congregational community, we must
all work together.

Peter Weidhorn, Chairman
Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees


Union for Reform Judaism.