US Conservatives respond to dwindling numbers

New plan for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism "calls for changes in focus and leadership and dramatic improvement."

February 6, 2011 04:00
1 minute read.
Rabbi Steven Wernick

rabbi steven wernick 311. (photo credit: courtesy)


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NEW YORK – A joint commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Hayom: The Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism has gone public with a draft strategic plan meant to change Conservative communities and synagogues.

The plan “calls for significant changes in focus and leadership and dramatic improvement in the way United Synagogue partners with its congregations and others across North America,” United Synagogue’s chief executive officer and executive vice president Rabbi Steven Wernick said.

“The strategic plan emphasizes tangible change, organizational transparency, openness, and a new way of doing things.” According to the new plan, USCJ will focus on strengthening synagogues, cultivating new leadership and creating a more unified and integrated educational system from early childhood through college years.

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The plan is at least partially in response to a turning point of sorts in Conservative Judaism: with an aging constituency, decline in numbers of adherents and movement away from denominational identification, many congregants feel ambivalent about their Conservative identity.

The main way to remedy these ills, the draft contends, is to build kehillot, or communities, within the Conservative movement from the ground-up via education and community organizing.

“While the commitment to Conservative Judaism and Conservative congregations is at the core of USCJ’s vision and mission, the new USCJ can become a nexus for serious, post-denominational Judaism as well,” the draft notes in a particularly revealing passage.

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