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March 27, 2012, New York – The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) today announced far reaching changes in structure and staffing to meet the challenges of the Reform Movement in 2012 and beyond.
The URJ's new structure aims to advance priorities identified by URJ President-elect Rabbi Jacobs after months of conversations with leaders across the Movement – to catalyze congregational change, expand the reach of the Reform Movement and engage the next generation.
"I am incredibly optimistic about the future of the Reform Movement," said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. "This new structure will help us meet the needs of our nearly 900 congregations and grow the Movement to include all those who can find a spiritual and Jewish home in a Reform community."
In order to carry out this vision, the URJ is establishing key Communities of Practice, featuring staff teams that will help congregations and communities dedicate their energies in a given area of synagogue life, such as youth engagement, social justice and interfaith outreach. The URJ will also build a Knowledge Network that will help facilitate broad expertise in the Reform community from congregations, to clergy to thought leaders in a number of key fields that apply to Jewish life. The URJ intends to be a catalyst and convener of best practices by sharing tools, methods and models so that every Reform congregation will flourish.
Prior to the restructuring, the URJ employed 370 individuals. Thirty individuals throughout North America (approximately eight percent of the staff) are now leaving the URJ, but there are also new positions open. Whenever appropriate, existing staff have been transferred into new roles. In total, when the new structure is complete, there will be approximately eight fewer positions than before. Future URJ staffing will include a developing network of expert volunteers, outside consultants and "adjunct" faculty members.
"Change is rarely, if ever, cost free. Even as we move forward, we recognize that a number of employees who have contributed much to the Movement will no longer be on our staff," said URJ Chairman Steve Sacks. "Collectively, we offer them our profound thanks."
"These were difficult and painful decisions," said URJ Senior Vice President Daniel Freelander. "We are deeply grateful to our former colleagues and anticipate that we will partner with many of them in the future. May we all go from strength to strength."
"This reorganization is not about cutting the budget and simply eliminating jobs," said URJ COO Barbara Saidel, "It's about refocusing our energies in different ways to better serve our members, the Reform Movement and the Jewish world."