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Chairman's Perspective: Challenges & Change

Ellen Marc/
As an airplane pilot, I was trained to quickly and competently handle the unforeseen. This training has served me well as your chairman these past four years, a time when the Reform Movement has run up against serious financial headwinds at a time of unprecedented challenges to organized religion as a whole. We have undertaken major changes in our structure and organization as a result.

That said, change, and the ability to respond quickly and appropriately to it, is built into the DNA of Reform Judaism. Our Movement is structured on the belief that change is necessary if we are to remain relevant and inspire North American Jews to lead rich, meaningful Jewish lives.

In the coming months we will undergo more changes as a new generation takes the reins of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, who has so ably led us as URJ president since 1996—overseeing the growth of our camps, the revitalization of worship in our congregations, and the renewed emphasis on adult Jewish literacy—is retiring in 2012. The Union Board has elected Rabbi Richard Jacobs, the visionary spiritual leader of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York, to succeed him. I have no doubt that Rabbi Jacobs will bring a new vitality to the Union.

In addition, this December, as my term comes to a close, I will be passing the gavel to Steve Sachs.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your chairman. These four years have been hectic, sometimes crazy, but always rewarding and fulfilling. I am proud of all we accomplished, and indebted to the men and women who have served on the many task forces, committees, and commissions that have guided our progress. I also appreciate the support and guidance which professionals of the Union, the CCAR, HUC-JIR, and our other affiliates provided me over the course of my term. Our Movement is strong because so many have dedicated their time and talent to our institutions—both at the local congregational level and on the broader stage of Reform Judaism.

This December 14–18 Reform Jews worldwide will gather as a community at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center outside of Washington, DC for a Biennial filled with transitions, hope, and promise. I invite you to join me there in celebrating the wonder of our Reform Movement.

Until then, may the New Year be sweet for you and your families.

Peter Weidhorn, Chairman
Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees


Union for Reform Judaism.