United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism Begins Strategic Plan Implementation

The United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism (USCJ) has announced the implementation of a major piece of its long-awaited Strategic Plan.

In a memo circulated hours ago, Rabbi Steve Wernick – USCJ’s CEO – wrote, “The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has taken the next step in the aggressive implementation of our new strategic plan, an exciting and dynamic initiative intended to create the framework for a new United Synagogue and to build a more vibrant Conservative movement.

Conservative Judaism in North America is at a crossroads. As we move forward into uncharted territory, the vital religious center must become stronger and more vibrant. As Conservative Jews, we represent that center. We accept the challenge. We are committed to helping our kehillot – sacred communities – transform themselves into places of ever-increasing spirituality and meaning.”

Key components of the announcement include:

  • The current regional structure is being replaced by representatives and managers dedicated to the care and (program) feeding of individual congregations, minyanim and havurot – all now called kehillot. Several years back, the Reform movement also instituted a plan to move away from a regional structure.
  • Fifteen employees, some of whom are long-time staff members, will lose their positions. Combined with a previous lay-off, this represents a 27% reorganization of staff in order to move the Strategic Plan forward. While it should be emphasized that the objective is not downsizing, the end result is a 15% staff reduction from two years ago, a 22% staff reduction from 3-4 years ago.
  • The movement recently instituted a 5% reduction in synagogue dues (for those pre-paying). The memo added, “But we are not just decreasing dues – we are determined to increase revenues substantially. We already have raised more than $800,000 in new commitments over the next three years as part of a new emphasis on resource development.”

Wernick’s memo concluded, “The Conservative movement faces a series of choices and challenges, and the changes we make now will determine how we grow and thrive. We believe that by implementing our strategic plan aggressively we position ourselves for a vibrant future. We look to a future where the Conservative movement maintains its position as the bellwether of the Jewish religious center, and our kehillot are thriving organisms, places that beckon Jews of all ages…

Now is the moment of truth for the new United Synagogue. Today we have begun to seize that moment.”