Building for the Future at the URJ’s General Assembly: January 9, 2022

Barbara Weinstein

The URJ’s General Assembly will convene virtually on January 9, 2022. Delegates from congregations throughout North America will hear an inspiring keynote address by URJ president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. The featured guest speaker, Author, Educator, and Interfaith Leader Dr. Eboo Patel, will give an address titled, “We Need To Build: How Religious Leaders and Institutions Create a Diverse and Vibrant Future,” which will be directly followed by a conversation with URJ Chair Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman.

In advance of a vote on the URJ’s bylaws, Joan Garry will deliver a short talk on governance. Our time together will be framed by the music and ethos that highlight the creativity which will continue to propel us forward.

Featured Guest Speaker Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a leading interfaith organization in the United States. He has masterfully galvanized communities to truly find strength in diversity and make faith a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. He teaches that the “heart of pluralism” is “to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it.”

“Finding strength in diversity is the project of our time,” says Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who believes we all have much to learn from the “Torah” of Eboo Patel.

Amendments to the URJ Constitution & Bylaws

Background: In March 2021, URJ North American Board Chair Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman established a Governance Task Force that was asked to propose a new model of governance that would clarify the roles of our leadership bodies and respect the time commitment asked of each lay leader. The Task Force was charged with developing a blueprint for providing strong strategic oversight that is agile enough to support the URJ and its congregations and communities as we respond to a changing world while building for the future.

After months of consultation with North American Board members and alumni, staff, experts, as well as researching models of governance from similarly situated organizations, the Task Force’s proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws that were overwhelmingly endorsed by the URJ North American Board on November 1, 2021. The amendments will be voted on by delegates representing URJ congregations at the URJ’s General Assembly (GA) in early January.

RMAC Dues & Number of Delegates Congregations May Send to the GA

Under the proposed amendments, no changes are being made to RMAC dues or to the make up or number of delegates congregations may send to the GA. The GA will continue to vote on and elect the members of the North American Board, vote on resolutions, and will be consulted on recommended amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws, with ample opportunity to provide input on any proposed changes.

A New, Smaller North American Board (NAB)

A new, smaller North American Board (NAB) of up to 180 members, including members of the Executive Board, will be relied upon to:

  • Initiate strategic conversations around program and policy
  • Serve as ambassadors and champions to our North American constituencies, congregations, and communities
  • Chart the URJ’s future mission, vision, and values by voting on any proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws
  • Shape the URJ’s public policy positions, including discussion and voting on resolutions
  • Review and ultimately approve the Executive Board and Officers of the URJ
  • Vote to admit new congregations to the URJ
  • Participate in standing and ad-hoc committees and task forces as needed
  • Strengthen the URJ’s financial well-being through personal annual donations, by identifying and inspiring potential donors, and by playing a consultative role on fiduciary decisions

New Executive Board

The new Executive Board of 25-30 members will be responsible for URJ governance and oversight. The EB will operate at both the fiduciary and strategic levels, including reviewing and approving budgets and capital decisions. Working closely with the NAB, the EB will ensure the organization is well managed, provide financial guidance, and review operational results achieved by staff.

Commitment to Diversity

Another important addition to the proposed bylaws is an explicit commitment to diversity. The revised bylaws state that all URJ boards, committees, commissions, and task forces should demonstrate principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion – as well as be inclusive of the geographic diversity and congregational size diversity within our movement. This clear statement will ensure that our leadership bodies reflect the diversity of skills, lived experience, and expertise within our movement, with representation from those knowledgeable about URJ programs and operations, including camp, youth activities, social justice, and Israel.

Instructions for Appointing Congregational Delegates

Instructions for appointing congregational delegates to vote at the January 9, 2022 Special Meeting of the General Assembly were sent by email in early November to all URJ congregational rabbis, presidents, and executive directors. The proposed amendments, as well as a background memo and FAQs were also posted to the Tent.

If you’d like to learn more or ask questions, you can email or join us at one of our three “office hour” opportunities: 

“Office Hour” Opportunities

Updating the URJ’s governance allows us to implement leading non-profit best practices. Please note these dates in your calendars. We hope to see you on January 9 to help us build the URJ future together.