The Reform Movement needs a membership support system that is simple, fair, predictable, and transparent. The system must be fair to congregations, and contribute sufficient funds to the work of both the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
Both the URJ Board of Trustees and the HUC-JIR Board of Governors have endorsed a new membership model for congregations. The model will be presented to the URJ’s General Assembly at the Biennial this November in Orlando. The General Assembly will be asked to vote on a resolution amending the Constitution and Bylaws and implementing the new model. That resolution is set forth below.
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY THAT:
WHEREAS, one feature that has made the Reform Movement in North America strong and vibrant is the sacred partnership between the congregations, the Union for Reform Judaism, and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in which the congregations provide some of the financial support needed by the Union and the College-Institute. The system established in the Constitution and Bylaws by which the congregations provide such financial support and compliance by the congregations with that system is and will continue to be a critical factor in the continued success and growth of the Reform Movement in North America.
Pursuant to and in accordance with Article VII of the Constitution of the Union for Reform Judaism and Article XVII of the Bylaws of the Union for Reform Judaism:
1. Article III of the URJ Constitution is hereby deleted and the following is substituted:
SECTION 1. Any Jewish congregation or other Jewish entity in the United States of America, Canada, or their territories or possessions, upon approval by the Board of Trustees, may become a member of this Union by subscribing to its Constitution and Bylaws.
SECTION 2. The Chair of the Board of Trustees shall appoint a Membership Committee which shall be duly representative of the congregations and the institutions of the Movement to review the system established in the Bylaws by which the congregations provide financial support to the Union and the College-Institute. This Membership Committee shall review the entire system of financial support and make recommendations to ensure that the system is duly reflective of the financial health of the congregations and the overall needs of the Union and the College-Institute. Subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees or Oversight Committee, the Membership Committee shall establish policies and procedures governing the foregoing system, shall monitor compliance with such policies and procedures, and shall make recommendations to the Board of Trustees or Oversight Committee as to when changes in the foregoing system should be made.
SECTION 3. In the event that a congregation is not in compliance with the Bylaws of the Union with respect to payments and after a reasonable period of time in which to cure such noncompliance, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, after consultation with the President of the Union, may recommend to the Membership Committee that notice be given to the congregation of the intention to recommend suspension from of all or part of the services received by the congregation from the Union. Such notice shall be issued upon approval by the Membership Committee. If, within thirty (30) days of the receipt of notice, such congregation requests a hearing, one shall be granted and held by the Membership Committee or a subcommittee thereof. If, after such hearing, the Membership Committee still deems the congregation not to be in compliance or if no such hearing had been requested, upon recommendation of the Membership Committee, the Board of Trustees or Oversight Committee may suspend part or all of the services of the Union to such congregation until such noncompliance is cured.
SECTION 4. The Board of Trustees shall have the further power, after consideration of the recommendation of the Membership Committee and after notice to such congregation and an opportunity to be heard by either (a) the Board of Trustees or (b) at the Board's election a committee constituted by it to hear and report, to terminate the membership of any such congregation that has been suspended in accordance with Section 3 hereof.
2. Article X of the URJ Bylaws is hereby deleted and the following is substituted:
REFORM MOVEMENT AFFILIATION COMMITMENT
SECTION 1. Each constituent congregation of the Union shall be obligated to pay as its Reform Movement Affiliation Commitment into the treasury of the Union, exclusive of the contributions made to or on behalf of the Union by its individual congregational members or from other sources, for each fiscal year beginning with congregational fiscal year commencing on or after January 1, 2016, a percentage designated by the Membership Policy Review Committee of the congregation’s defined operating revenues for the congregation’s prior fiscal year. The designated percentage shall be reviewed by the Membership Policy Review Committee every two years (the designated percentage for the first two years is four percent (4%)). The term “defined operating revenues” is intended to include all gross revenues of the congregation used to support the day-to-day operations of the congregation, including yearly withdrawals from endowed and/or restricted funds that are used to support operations. Excluded from the definition of defined operating revenues for purposes of this calculation are revenues received from a congregation’s day school, early childhood or camp programs, cemeteries and contributions to the corpus of endowments, restricted funds and/or building funds as well as funds that are received and directly passed on to another organization. The congregation shall provide documentation of its defined operating revenues in accordance with policies specified by the Membership Committee and shall make payments periodically in accordance with policies established by the Membership Committee.
SECTION 2. A congregation which is experiencing financial difficulty in making the payments specified in Section 1 may request relief from some or all of its payment obligations. The Membership Committee shall establish and publicly promulgate policies and procedures governing requests for such relief and the standards under which such relief may be granted. The President of the Union or his/her designee is authorized to agree to such relief with a specific congregation so long as such relief is in accordance with the policies established by the Membership Committee. The Membership Committee shall monitor any agreements providing such relief to assure compliance with stated policies. Any agreement for relief which is not in accordance with policies specified by the Membership Committee may take place only in unusual circumstances and must be specifically approved by the Board of Trustees or Oversight Committee. Congregations that have not made payments in accordance either with the formula or with a duly agreed upon payment relief plan shall be expected to make the payments required by the new formula.
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY THAT, IN ORDER TO IMPLEMENT THE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS HEREIN ADOPTED:
1. In order in to implement Article X Section 1 of the Bylaws, for each fiscal year beginning with a congregation’s fiscal year commencing on or after January 1, 2016, a congregation shall pay four percent (4%) percent of the congregation’s defined operating revenues based on the congregation’s defined operating revenues for the prior fiscal year.
2. On or before April 1, 2017, the Chair of the URJ Board of Trustees shall appoint a Membership Policy Review Committee which shall be cochaired by a designee of the Union for Reform Judaism and a designee of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institution of Religion, of no more than forty (40) individuals who are duly representative of the congregations and the Movement to review the four percent (4%) number set forth above. The foregoing Membership Policy Review Committee shall be empowered to direct that changes be made in the four percent (4%) of defined operating revenues number within a range of from three percent (3%) of defined operating revenues to four and one-half percent (4.5%) of defined operating revenues. Such decision by the Membership Policy Review Committee shall be effective on January 1, 2018 and for a period of two years thereafter. The congregations shall promptly be notified of such decision. The decision of the Membership Policy Review Committee shall be subject to review by the delegates to the General Assembly upon application by no less than twenty (20) congregations that are then current with all of their payment obligations under the Bylaws which application shall then be considered in accordance with Article XIII, Section 11(a) of the Bylaws governing resolutions to be placed before the General Assembly. A new Membership Policy Review Committee shall be appointed by the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the foregoing process shall be repeated every two-years thereafter.
3. In the new system, the payments due from some congregations may increase and for other congregations may decrease from what they have been paying. In order to ensure that congregations in compliance with their payment obligations do not experience an increase in payments, but at the same time not cause an immediate adverse impact on the Union or the College-Institute from congregations whose payments would decrease, there shall be limitations placed on the percentage by which each congregation’s payment in a given fiscal year shall vary from the amount billed to the congregation in the prior fiscal year. For the first two years commencing January 1, 2016, the limits will be as follows:
a. For those congregations that have made all payments that have been billed for their fiscal year prior to the fiscal year commencing January 1, 2016, in the event that the formula of four percent (4%) of defined operating revenues for their first two fiscal years commencing after January 1, 2016
(i) would result in an increase in the amount to be paid, the congregation shall pay no more than the amount paid for the prior fiscal year (e.g., if a congregation paid the full $100 billed in the prior fiscal year and the application of the new formula would call for the congregation to pay $110 in the next fiscal year, the congregation would pay $100 in the next two fiscal years, and not the $110).
(ii) would result in a decrease in the amount to be paid, the amount of said decrease shall be limited to ten percent (10%) of the amount actually paid for the prior fiscal year (e.g., if the congregation paid the full $100 billed in the prior fiscal year and the application of the new formula would call for the congregation to pay $80 in the next fiscal year, the congregation would pay $90 in that fiscal year and $81 in the next fiscal year).
b. For those congregations in compliance with a duly agreed upon payment relief plan whose payment would increase over that paid for the prior fiscal year, the congregation shall pay the amount called for by the plan or by the new formula, whichever is less, unless otherwise noted in a plan agreement. For those congregations in compliance with duly agreed upon payment relief plans whose payments would decrease from those paid for the prior fiscal year, the amount of such decrease shall be limited to five percent (5%) calculated in the same manner as in subparagraph a.(ii) hereof.
c. Every two years thereafter, the foregoing adjustments shall be reviewed by the Membership Policy Review Committee in accordance with the procedures and the time table set forth in paragraph 3 hereof.
4. The Membership Committee established in the Constitution and Bylaws shall adopt procedures to assure a fair and equitable system in which each congregation pays its share as specified either by the formula set forth in the Bylaws or in accordance with a duly approved payment plan taking into account the financial circumstances of a particular congregation.