Rabbi Richard Jacobs Slated as New URJ President

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced today the recommendation of Rabbi Richard Jacobs for President of the organization, to succeed Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, who will retire in 2012 after 16 years in the position. If formally selected, Rabbi Jacobs, who has been the senior rabbi at one of the most vibrant congregations in North America for 20 years, will be only the fourth president of the URJ in the last 68 years.

The board of trustees will vote on Jacobs’ nomination at its June 2011 meeting. At the completion of the process, Jacobs will begin to consult with Reform congregational and community leaders before he assumes his role as president in 2012.

Jacobs has been the senior rabbi of Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York, since 1991. His tenure has been marked by ongoing transformation in worship, education and governance. The congregation’s “Sharing Shabbat” program, for example, which includes time for families together and for parents and children concurrently, has been widely reproduced across North America. Under his leadership, WRT has just completed construction of the largest “green synagogue” in North America. Further, through Rabbi Jacobs’ work on the board of the UJA-NY Federation of New York, he helped facilitate the largest single grant ever made for synagogue transformation.

Jacobs’ work and his impact have stretched far beyond Westchester. He is a nationally recognized leader on social justice issues, and has traveled extensively in his role as a board member of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS).

Deeply committed to the State of Israel, Rabbi Jacobs has studied for two decades at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and currently is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Institute. Additionally, he has spent nearly 20 years in leadership positions with the New Israel Fund, working to promote a democratic and pluralistic Israeli society. Through this work and during stays in his apartment in Jerusalem, Jacobs has strengthened his personal and emotional ties to Israel.

Jacobs says he is committed to the mission of strengthening congregations and the Reform Movement by creating a URJ that will be an incubator for new ideas and a place for a new generation of leaders who will act as change agents. Building on the URJ’s strengths, and carefully assessing its challenges, Jacobs will work to create “a new, visionary culture of excellence.”