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October 22, 2014 | 28th Tishrei 5775

71st Biennial of the Union for Reform Judaism - Call for Resolutions

In anticipation of the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial General Assembly to be held starting on Wednesday, December 14, 2011, we want to share with you the timetable for processing resolutions before the Biennial convenes.

Section 11 of Article XIII of the Constitution and Bylaws provides that resolutions may be initiated by a constituent congregation, a Council or Federation, the Board of Trustees, a National Affiliate, or a Commission, not less than ninety (90) days before the first plenary session of the Biennial. This year, the final date for submission will be Friday, September 16, 2011. We ask, however, that resolutions be sent as soon as they are available. Resolutions must be submitted to the Resolutions Committee, in care of Barbara Weinstein at the email address below. Following review by the Resolutions Committee, the resolutions are sent to the congregations with the recommendations of the Resolutions Committee at least sixty (60) days before the Biennial convenes. Proposed amendments to reported resolutions may be submitted to the Resolutions Committee at least ten (10) days before the Biennial convenes.

While there is a procedure for initiation of resolutions by petition of five congregations at the Biennial, that procedure should be used only for those matters that could not have been anticipated in time for submission to the Resolutions Committee by September 16, 2011.

Please ensure any proposed resolutions are restricted to important matters on which the Union should take a stand and do not repeat matters that are already established policy. To review the existing Union resolutions, go to urj.org/resolutions/.

The Resolutions Committee uses a standard format for all resolutions brought before the Biennial. In place of a series of "whereas" clauses, we favor a descriptive background section of one or more paragraphs followed by the resolution portion that sets forth the specific actions to be taken. As a model for the form in which resolutions should be submitted, we have attached a recent resolution.

At the 2011 Biennial, we will again be operating under a revised process, adopted in 2008, to guide consideration of resolutions.  The process responds to concerns that resolutions were not given the attention they merit at past Biennials and the corresponding frustration among congregations that proposed such resolutions. A copy of the revised process is outlined below under REVISED RESOLUTIONS PROCESS.  Your help is vital to ensuring the success of the resolutions process. 

In addition, any proposal that would amend the Constitution or Bylaws of the Union must be presented as a proposed amendment pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution or Article XVII of the Bylaws. A proposal to change the requirements of the Constitution or Bylaws by resolution will be rejected. Since those Articles require the Board of Trustees or the Executive Committee to transmit the proposed amendment, with its views thereon, to the constituent congregations at least sixty (60) days prior to the date appointed for the General Assembly, any such amendments must be submitted to Peter Weidhorn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, no later than August 17.

Should you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone at 202-387-2800 or by email at bweinstein@urj.org.



CONSTITUTION & BYLAWS OF THE UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM
ARTICLE XIII. MEETINGS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

SECTION 11. All resolutions to be acted upon by the General Assembly shall be presented as follows:

a.     Resolutions may be initiated by presentation to the Resolutions Committee (care of the administrative secretary) by a constituent congregation, a council or federation, the Board of Trustees, a national affiliate, or a commission not less than ninety (90) days prior to the date appointed for the convening of the General Assembly. All such resolutions shall be considered by the Resolutions Committee, which shall have the power to endorse them, recommend rejection of them, or suggest revisions there of. All resolutions so submitted, in original form or as changed with the consent of the proposers, shall be reported to the constituent congregations of the Union not less than sixty (60) days prior to the date appointed for the convening of the General Assembly, together with the recommendations of the Resolutions Committee, including any suggested changes or substitutes and reasons thereof. Proposed amendments to such reported resolutions may be submitted to the Resolutions Committee at least ten (10) days prior to the date appointed for the convening of the General Assembly.

The Resolutions Committee shall meet in the city in which the General Assembly is being held at least forty-eight hours prior to the opening of the first scheduled plenary session to consider such resolutions and any suggested amendments thereto, at which time proposers of the resolutions or amendments shall have an opportunity to be heard.

b.     Resolutions may be submitted to the Resolutions Committee through the administrative secretary by petition of the majority of the registered delegates of each of at least five constituent congregations not later than the end of the plenary session of the second day of the General Assembly.

c.     Additional resolutions may be presented to the General Assembly at any time during the meeting of the General Assembly by the Resolutions Committee and by other committees of the General Assembly appointed by the chairman of the Board of Trustees or by the presiding officer.

SECTION 12. All resolutions referred or submitted to the Resolutions Committee of the General Assembly as provided in subsections (a) or (b) of Section 11 of this article shall be considered by said committee, and such resolutions as it shall approve, either as originally proposed or as modified, shall be recommended by it to the General Assembly for consideration and passage. The Resolutions Committee shall also report any resolutions rejected by it or on which it failed to act, and these resolutions may not be considered by the General Assembly except upon the affirmative vote of the majority of delegates present and voting without debate.

SECTION 13. The adoption of resolutions recommended to the General Assembly by the Resolutions Committee pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 11 of this article shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the delegates present and voting. Amendments to such resolutions that were previously submitted to the Resolutions Committee prior to the ten-day period described in subsection (a) of Section 11 of this article, if properly submitted to the General Assembly for consideration, shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the delegates present and voting. Amendments to such resolutions that were not previously submitted to the Resolutions Committee prior to such ten-day period shall be considered by the General Assembly only upon the affirmative vote of a majority of the delegates present and voting without debate. The adoption of resolutions presented to the General Assembly pursuant to subsections (b) or (c) of Section 11 of this article shall require the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the delegates present and voting. 

SECTION 14. Except as otherwise provided herein, meetings of the General Assembly shall be conducted in accordance with parliamentary usage as set forth in the latest revised edition of Robert's Rules of Order.

 

REVISED RESOLUTIONS PROCESS
Prepared by the Task Force on Biennial Resolutions;
as amended and accepted by the URJ Executive Board
on Sunday, December 14, 2008


Members of the Task Force on Biennial Resolutions:

Chair: Steve Pruzan
Committee Members: Barry Epstein, Bill Blumstein, Cheryl Gutmann,  Rabbi David Saperstein, Elliott Jacobson, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Hank Levine, Honey Heller, Jennifer Kaufman, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Martin Jannol, Mauri Willis, Michael Laufer, Rabbi Peter Knobel, Peter Weidhorn, Shirley Gordon, Steven Burkett
Staff: Rabbi Elliot Kleinman, Mark J. Pelavin, Kate Bigam

  1. Pursuant to the By-laws, Biennial resolutions may be proposed by any of the following:
    a. Constituent congregations
    b. A council or federation
    c. The Board of Trustees
    d. An affiliatee.
    e. A commission
  2. Pursuant to the By-laws, all Biennial resolutions shall be submitted to the Resolutions Committee as follows:
    a. All resolutions must be submitted 90 days prior to the Biennial.
    b. The Resolutions Committee shall review resolutions and prepare recommendations as specified in the Union’s By-laws and will be responsible for writing honorific resolutions.
    c. All resolutions shall be sent to the congregations as required by the By-laws and to the Resolutions Prioritization Committee, with the exception of honorific resolutions, which may be brought directly to the Biennial from the Resolutions Committee.
  3. A Resolutions Prioritization Committee will be established. The composition and function of the Committee shall be as follows:
    a. The Resolutions Prioritization Committee shall include the following individuals or their designees:
      1. Chairperson of the Board of Trustees
      2. President of the URJ
      3. Resolutions Committee chairperson
      4. Commission on Social Action chairperson
      5. Biennial Program Committee Chairperson
      6. Chief Program Officer
    b. In the event the Committee determines that circumstances require that there be more than three Biennial Programming Resolutions (see Sec. 4 below) to be presented to the general assembly, the Committee shall identify those additional resolutions, and recommend same to the Officers of the URJ, who shall then determine whether any or all additional resolutions be deemed to be Biennial Programming Resolutions.
  4. For each Biennial Programming Resolution:
    a. There shall be a specific time at one of the plenary sessions when each of the resolutions shall be the subject of a program for a time certain.
    b. Immediately following the program as set forth in section (a.) above, a designated amount of time shall be allotted for debate on the resolution by delegates attending the plenary session.
    c. Upon completion of debate, the resolution shall be voted upon by those delegates in attendance at the said plenary session.
  5. For General Biennial Resolutions, except in the case of a conflict with the Union’s By-laws:
    a. All General Biennial Resolutions shall be discussed and/or debated at designated workshop(s) on the Thursday of the Biennial. At least two members of the Resolutions Prioritization Committee shall attend these workshops and be available to answer questions.
    b. If any amendments are proposed to any or all of the General Biennial Resolutions during the workshop on Thursday, the Resolutions Committee shall meet Thursday night of the Biennial to consider whether to accept any of these amendments.
    c. The General Biennial Resolutions shall be voted upon individually by the delegates present at a Friday plenary session through an up or down vote (i.e., these resolutions will not be discussed or debated at the plenary session).
    d. Delegates shall be advised in advance as to the plenary session at which the vote will take place.
    e. A motion may be made from the floor to debate any General Biennial Resolution. The resolution will be debated if the motion is passed by two-thirds of those present and voting. The motion to debate itself is a non-debatable motion.
  6. Except in the case of a conflict with the Union’s By-laws, all honorific resolutions shall be voted upon individually by the delegates attending at one of the plenary sessions, designated in advance, by and up and down vote (i.e. without discussion or debate).

  7. Except in the case of a conflict with the Union’s By-laws, with regard to resolutions based upon the Presidents Message Committee:
    a. The President’s Message Committee shall meet to prepare and recommend resolutions based on the President’s message, which will be available by the conclusion of Shabbat to the general assembly.
    b. A time shall be designated on Sunday morning prior to the Sunday morning plenary session designated for delegates to meet with the President’s Message Committee members to discuss or debate the President’s Message Committee’s proposed resolutions.
    c. The President’s Message Committee resolutions shall be voted upon individually by an up and down vote of the delegates attending the Sunday morning plenary session without discussion or debate.
    d. A motion may be made from the floor to debate any President’s Message Committee resolution. The resolution will be debated if the motion is passed by two-thirds of those present and voting. The motion to debate itself is a non-debatable motion.
  8. Between Biennials:
    a. It is anticipated that the URJ board will play an increased role in consideration and adoption of resolutions. All resolutions – regardless of the procedure under which they are adopted – shall have equal weight and authority as expressions of the views and policies of the Union. }
    b. Those bodies listed in Section 1 may, between meetings of the General Assembly, submit resolutions for consideration by the Board of Trustees or its Executive Committee.
    c. Such Resolutions shall be submitted in writing to the Chair of the Board and to the President of the Union.
    d. The Chair of the Board and President of the Union may refer such resolutions to the Standing Resolutions Committee for additional consideration and consultation or, where necessary, may schedule such resolutions for consideration at a Board of Trustees meeting or at an Executive Committee meeting.
    e. Once scheduled, the Chair of the Standing Resolutions Committee or his/her designee shall present the resolution for consideration at a meeting of the Board or the Executive Committee.
    f. Resolutions scheduled for consideration by the Board or the Executive Committee shall be distributed in advance to the Congregations, in accordance with the provisions of the March 2008 Memorandum to Congregations from the Chair and President (copy attached).

URJ

March 2008

TO: Congregational Presidents, Rabbis, Social Action Chairs and URJ Regional Boards

FR: Peter Weidhorn, Chairman
     Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President

CC: Union Board

RE: Union for Reform Judaism Resolutions on Controversial Public Policy Issues

The Union has for over a century adopted resolutions taking positions on public policy issues where we believed that was necessary to fulfill our prophetic witness. We have a clear process for securing approval for such resolutions depending on the particular facts and circumstances and the urgency with which we must act. In connection with Biennials, there is a process in our Constitution and By-Laws for securing resolutions from congregations and sending proposed resolution to our congregations for comment prior to their consideration at the Biennial Convention. In between Biennials, resolutions can be presented to and considered by our 250-member Board of Trustees or 70-member Executive Committee.

While we have full consultation with the congregations in connection with resolutions to be adopted at Biennials, there has not previously been the opportunity for similar consultation when the Board or Executive Committee is considering such resolutions. Toward that end, we wanted to let you know of our goal of establishing new ways through technology to enhance input from congregations before the Board or Executive Committee considers resolutions that take position on controversial public issues.

What we plan to do to achieve this goal is to start with the following new process:
  1. When it is known that a resolution will be considered by our Board or Executive Committee on a public policy issue considered controversial by the Chair and President, the Union will inform congregational leaders and regional boards through appropriate electronic means (Presconf, RAVKAV) of what the Union is considering.

  2. When a draft of the resolution being considered is available, the Union will send to those leaders.

  3. The Union will establish an online mechanism for receiving comment by the congregational leaders on proposed resolutions. Responses will be shared by the Union’s decision making bodies.

  4. In addition, we will continue our long-standing practice of ensuring that the Board or Executive Committee members read and hear perspectives for and against what is being proposed.

  5. After the Board or Executive Committee meeting, the Union will inform congregations of the action taken. We will establish an appropriate on-line vehicle to allow for comments on the Board or Executive Committee decision on the resolution to be posted and viewed by our public.
There will be times when issues arise abruptly where there will be not be adequate time to trigger this process. In addition, our Chairman, President and other leaders will retain their flexibility of speaking out on issues when in their judgment it is important to do so. But we think it important to start trying to use our technology to better include our congregations in the Union’s deliberations on resolutions. As we gain more experience, we will then refine the process.

We look forward to your participation in this new process.

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