Moving the United Synagogue Forward

Three of our largest global communal organizations are seeing change at the top [of their professional staff] this summer: the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; the United Jewish Communities; and the Jewish Agency for Israel. As of now, only the United Synagogue has formally selected their new CEO – Rabbi Stephen Wernick.

here’s Rabbi Wernick:

15 Sivan 5769 – 7 June 2009

To the Members of the Conservative/Masorti Movement:

I am humbled by my selection as the next executive vice president and CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. I am looking forward to beginning my responsibilities in earnest on July 1. As I do so, I invite you to get in touch with me to share your thoughts and concerns, your hopes and your dreams on how we can work together to revitalize and grow our movement.

As we all know, this is a time of great complexity for United Synagogue and Conservative Judaism today. We know the challenges that face us: shifting demographics and post-denominationalism; intermarriage, assimilation, and apathy; a competitive marketplace of ideas and allegiances; an increasing polarization of the right and the left; limited resources exacerbated by an economy in peril; and varying perspectives on how to address these challenges both within each organization and at the movement level. Even though I acknowledge these problems, I remain optimistic. And I am extremely excited to have this chance to address these challenges because Conservative Judaism is critically important to the North American and world Jewish communities, and because great challenges present great opportunities. Our collective task is to inspire the movement we all love to greater heights and effectiveness.

Since the synagogue remains the primary locus of Jewish life in North America, United Synagogue will be a catalyst for the creation, nurturing, and growth of Conservative synagogues. It also will incubate and nourish other dynamic Conservative communities, including Koach for college students and the independent minyanim that the 20- and 30-year-olds who grew up in our congregations are building. Our role will be to produce, locate, and deliver the types of services that will enable local leaders, both lay and professional, to affect North American Jews through Conservative Judaism. We will pave a path of Jewish growth for people who are looking for spiritually uplifting experiences and emotional connections to community through our unique approach to Jewish living and text study, which brings together tradition and modern scholarship as no other movement does. We will partner with these local leaders so that our congregations will feel we are serving them well.

We have heard the criticism that has swelled so pointedly in the last few months. At its core is many local leaders’ profound disappointment because they feel that we are not serving them well enough. We know that to meet these challenges we must become a leaner, tighter, more effective, more responsive, and more transparent organization. We will listen carefully to these concerns, for we must build those coalitions and partnerships – individually and throughout the organizations that make up our movement – to propel us toward a new generation of knowledgeable, more engaged and more committed Jews. Once the relationships are secure, United Synagogue and our partners will work together to build stronger synagogues and so strengthen Conservative Judaism

I am thankful for this opportunity to serve the Jewish people through the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. There is much to be done and I am eager to begin, partnering with the staff of United Synagogue and with you.


Rabbi Steven Wernick