In Approving New Plan, Conservative Synagogue Movement Minimizes Value of College Outreach

As expected, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s board of directors voted yesterday to accept a new strategic plan. Work will begin immediately on forming a committee to lay out its implementation.

The plan was produced by a joint commission representing United Synagogue and Hayom: The Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism. In February, the group released a draft strategic plan designed to chart a new course for United Synagogue that will change and strengthen the experience in Conservative congregations and in the many kehillot that share their values. Since making the draft public, Rabbi Steven Wernick, United Synagogue’s chief executive officer and executive vice president, and other members of the strategic planning commission have discussed it with Conservative congregations across the country. The plan accepted Sunday reflected those discussions

Following passage, Rabbi Wernick released the following brief statement:

“This is a historic moment both for United Synagogue and for Conservative Judaism. This vote recognizes that the future requires a different focus and declares boldly that we’re prepared to meet the challenges.”

As one part of the newly passed plan, Koach – the movement’s college outreach project – will be reconfigured. Rabbi Wernick has previously said budgetary constraints and a revamping of his organization’s mission has meant that Koach, which received about $400,000 this year, would be receiving only about $225,000 to $250,000 next year. A decade ago, it had a budget of $750,000.

While it is clearly time to rethink old models, one wonders how the Conservative movement, or for that matter any of the other religious streams, plan to meet the challenges of the 21st century when instead of increasing – they reduce – their outreach to this most important demographic.

They apparently just don’t get it.