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April 20, 2014 | 20th Nisan 5774

Amendments To The URJ Constitution And By-Laws

67th General Assembly
November 2003
Minneapolis, Minnesota

AMENDMENTS TO THE URJ CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS

In the proposed Wording column, the proposed new words will be underlined; proposed words to be struck out will have a line through them.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #1

To amend URJ CONSTITUTION ARTICLE I - NAME, by striking out "of American Hebrew Congregations" and in its place inserting "for Reform Judaism." This Article would then read in full:

"This organization shall be known as the Union for Reform Judaism (hereinafter referred to as the Union).

RATIONALE: In December 2002 the URJ Board of Trustees voted unanimously to recommend to the 67th General Assembly in Minneapolis that the name of the Union be changed to Union for Reform Judaism.

The Board of Trustees recommends the name Union for Reform Judaism because:

  1. The word "Union" provides continuity with our past. In 1946, when he recommended a name change, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath said, "One word we must retain: 'Union.'" As Rabbi Eric Yoffie said in 2002, "what was true after 73 years of our existence in 1946 is even more true after 129 years of our existence."

  2. The current name is awkward, clumsy, and difficult to remember. We need a new name that is short, easy to say, and recognizable.

  3. We need a name that clearly identifies us as Reform Jews. As Rabbi Alexander Schindler said when he called for a name change in 1993, "the word Reform does not appear in our institutional name, and yet it is precisely this adjective which defines our essence, and which has made us the religion of choice for the majority of American Jews." Similarly Rabbi Yoffie, speaking to the Board of Trustees, said, "Today we are proud of being Jews, and our name should proclaim, in the most unmistakable tones, who we are."

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately its adoption by the General Assembly. However, there will be a phasing-in period for national and regional stationery and letterhead, email addresses, etc.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT #2

To amend BYLAWS ARTICLE I, SECTION 1(b(2)), to replace the 6th sentence which currently reads "The trustee representatives of the councils shall be elected by their respective regional councils."

and replace it with the following: "The trustee representatives of the councils, which include the council president and the federation president (where applicable), shall be elected by their respective regional councils."

RATIONALE: This section has always been interpreted to mean that the president of a council, as well as the president of a federation if there is a federation within the council (i.e. the Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and South Florida federations), are included within quota of regional representatives on the Board of Trustees assigned to the council. Although this appears to be set forth very clearly in the preceding sentence of the section ("The presidents of each council and federation during their respective terms of office shall serve as representatives on the Board of Trustees from their respective councils and shall be included in the quotas assigned to the councils by the Board of Trustees."), this amendment would eliminate any possible ambiguity. In addition, although the section has always provided that federation presidents are elected by the regional council and not by some other body or group, that may not have been the practice in some councils or federations, and this amendment clarifies what ought to be the appropriate practice beyond doubt.

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately upon the adjournment of the General Assembly.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT #3

To amend BYLAWS ARTICLE I, SECTION 4, to delete the section as it now appears: If any of the chairmen of the various commissions of the Union (including joint commissions) have not been selected from among the members of the Board of Trustees, they shall have the right to attend meetings of the Board of Trustees.

and to replace it with the following: "Except when confidential or other such sensitive issues are discussed, members of Reform congregations in the Union who are not members of the Board of Trustees, may attend meetings of the Board of Trustees as observers and may attend, as observers, meetings of Union committees, commissions and task forces in which they do not participate as members."

RATIONALE: The current section only permits chairs of commissions who are not members of the Board of Trustees to attend meetings of the Board of Trustees. Since, except for confidential and other such sensitive issues, meetings of the Board of Trustees and meetings of committees, commissions and task forces should be transparent and open to all who choose to attend, this amendment will provide for such transparency. In practice, a number of members of Reform congregations who are not members of the Board of Trustees have attended these meetings, so this amendment does not represent any change in policy. Meetings of the URJ Executive Committee are not included at this time in this amendment, because given the size of the Executive Committee and the size of its meeting room, sufficient space for observers is not available.

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately upon the adjournment of the General Assembly.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT #4

To amend BYLAWS ARTICLE I to add the following new SECTION 5:

"SECTION 5: Upon the dissolution of the Union, the Board of Trustees shall, after paying or making provisions for the payment of all liabilities of the Union, dispose of all the assets of the Union exclusively for the purpose of the Union to perpetuate and advance Reform Judaism, or to such organization or organizations operated and organized both (a) for religious, charitable, and educational purposes as shall at the time qualify as an exempt organization or organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (or corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law) and (b) for the purpose of perpetuating and advancing Reform Judaism. Any such assets not so disposed of shall be disposed of by the appropriate court having jurisdiction in the county in which the principal office of the Union is then located, exclusively for the purpose of perpetuating and advancing Reform Judaism."

RATIONALE: Although the Constitution or Bylaws of many religious organizations contain a provision dealing with the distribution of assets if and when the organization dissolves, the Constitution and Bylaws of the Union have never contained such a provision. At least one state of the United States has recently ruled, in connection with the Union, that unless its Bylaws are amended to include a dissolution provision, the Union's exemption from the payment of sales and use taxes will not be renewed. Since that would mean a significant annual payment in this one state alone, and the reasonable possibility that other states would soon promulgate a similar requirement, this amendment is essential.

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately upon its adoption by the General Assembly.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT #5

To amend Bylaws ARTICLE V, SECTION 6, 4th sentence, to add the following phrase at the end of that sentence:

"and at each regular meeting of the Executive Committee."

RATIONALE: This section currently requires the Treasurer of the URJ to report the financial condition of the Union at each regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. Since the Board meets only twice a year, it is fiscally prudent to provide that the Treasurer shall report at each of the two Executive Committee meetings that occur during the year.

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately upon its adoption by the General Assembly.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT #6

To amend Bylaws ARTICLE XII - AUTHORITY TO ACCEPT GIFTS, ETC., by deleting the present language which reads: "The chairman of the Board of Trustees, any vice chairman, the treasurer, the president, any vice president, or the administrative secretary of the Union shall be authorized to sign in the name and on behalf of the Union a receipt and/or release for any gift, legacy, bequest, or devise received from any donors or from any executors, administrators, trustees, or other fiduciaries."

and replacing the deleted language with the following language: "The Union's gift acceptance policy (the term "gift" includes, but is not limited to, legacies, bequests, devises, gifts, and other receipts of such nature) is that set forth in policies and procedures adopted by the Union from time to time."

RATIONALE: This amendment conforms the provision to what has been the practice for many years. Generally, committees and departments of the Union, including without limitation the Development Committee and the Investment Committee, from time to time bring resolutions to the Board of Trustees or to the Executive Committee setting forth gift acceptance policies. Those policies may apply generally or they may be related to specific gifts. The Union's gift acceptance policies are those adopted by the Board of Trustees or the Executive Committee. Those policies give the officers of the Union authority to act within the framework of the policies and procedures thus established.

PROVISO: This amendment will become effective immediately upon its adoption by the General Assembly.

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