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The Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ) met recently in New Orleans for their annual convention where they announced significant organizational changes to better advocate for and support compelling strategies to engage and connect the men of Reform Judaism. MRJ is the affiliate organization of the Union for Reform Judaism that is focused on connecting and engaging men in Reform Jewish life.
MRJ President Stuart L. Leviton of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA, says,
"While honoring and preserving the legacy of Brotherhoods and the men who have sustained MRJ throughout the past 90 years, MRJ has embarked on an exciting new phase. Working in greater alignment with the URJ, we will now be more seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the Reform Movement and will be better equipped to engage men in the real issues they face in Jewish life across North America.
"MRJ is re-doubling its efforts to be a more focused, mission-driven organization, aligning its financial priorities, organizational structure, and connectedness to its affiliates and URJ congregations to more effectively engage and connect all of the men of Reform Judaism," said Leviton. "Going forward, MRJ will be a strong advocate for tearing down barriers to adult men entering organized Reform Jewish life, and for eliminating excuses for adult men to exit the Reform Movement."
Among the key changes, the MRJ has welcomed two new professional staff members to advance its new approach. Rabbi Richard Address, a long-standing advocate for men in Reform Judaism, has been appointed as the MRJ's first Rabbinic Advisor, and Adam Karol has been named the MRJ's Engagement Manager.
Rabbi Richard F. Address recently acted as the senior rabbi at Congregation M'kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ. Prior to that, Rabbi Address served as the specialist and congregational consultant for the URJ in the program areas of Caring Community and Family Concerns. In this part-time position, Rabbi Address will advise the MRJ on effective strategies to reach and to connect the diverse group of adult men, Jewish and non-Jewish, who are a part of the Reform Movement, and he will facilitate a series of in-person and online gatherings of adult men focusing on the themes of self, identity, aging, and important relationships with other men, family, and community. He says,
"The MRJ is positioned to become a leader in developing and fostering meaningful conversations and programs that will speak to the transitions that are the reality for so many men and our families. Together we can build on the traditions and foundation of MRJ and create a men's organization that will speak to the Jewish man of the 21st century."
Adam Karol will be the MRJ's first Engagement Manager. Adam comes to the MRJ from the URJ's communications team and will be MRJ's full-time professional staff link to and advocate within the URJ and its member congregations. Given the overwhelming evidence of the importance of meaningful and impactful relationships to building and sustaining community, Adam will partner with MRJ's lay leaders to identify, nurture, and sustain the essential relationships, both within the organized Reform Movement and beyond, to advance MRJ's mission. Says Karol,
"I come from a family that has always been very involved in the Reform Movement. My father and my uncle are both Reform rabbis, my fiancée is currently in rabbinical school, and my grandfather was active in his temple brotherhood for as long as I can remember. It is important to me to sustain this Movement that has played such a significant role in my life and I believe that helping the MRJ grow and become a more cohesive part of the Movement will help strengthen Reform Judaism for generations to come."
The MRJ convention body passed two new constitutional amendments to support its new, more open approach. One was focused on broadening the concept of MRJ affiliation to include those groups affiliated with URJ-member congregations and those groups that reside in a locality where there are no URJ congregations. The second amendment established a voluntary affiliation fee in order to relax financial barriers to participation. Says URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs,
"I'm thrilled to see the ways in which MRJ is growing, expanding and broadening their tent to include more men in Reform Jewish life. I look forward to working more closely with the MRJ and all our affiliates to make a stronger, more robust Reform Movement."
For more information visit the MRJ website.