Assisting Congregations in Need of Jewish Professionals

66th General Assembly
December 2001
Boston, Massachusetts

Background: The Reform Movement's current shortage of Jewish professionals--rabbis, cantors, educators, and administrators--affects many of our congregations. To some extent, the shortage reflects the success of the Movement. One hundred and twelve congregations have joined the UAHC since the 1991 Biennial convention, and many of those congregations are looking to engage one or more Jewish professionals. Furthermore, many UAHC congregations are growing in size and programming: Meet the needs of their congregants, they require greater numbers of professional staff.

In this context, our Movement especially benefits when our synagogue communities, through both professional and lay leadership, encourage their members to pursue careers as rabbis, cantors, educators, and communal service professionals. We recognize the hard work of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in its recruitment efforts, but we also know that it is the responsibility of the entire Reform Movement to encourage our youth, college students, and synagogue leaders to become Jewish professionals.

In addition, a number of professionals have offered to assist congregations on a part-time basis during the current period of need. As a result, several congregations, with the assistance of their UAHC regional director, have been able to find local professionals to help out on a limited basis. Other congregations have sought to increase the level of knowledge of their lay members, including sending some to the UAHC/HUC-JIR/CCAR Sh'liach K'hilah/Synagogue Associate program, thus expanding the number of people able to assist in congregational life. Still other congregations that are blessed with several professionals have encouraged efforts by those professionals to assist underserved congregations on an occasional basis. All these initiatives help, but more is required.

In the midst of this shortage, we are mindful of the words of our tradition:
Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh,"All Israel is responsible for one another." It is the obligation of all of us in the Reform Movement to assist those congregations in need of professional support.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

  1. Congratulate those congregations and professional and volunteer leaders who have nurtured and encouraged individuals to pursue education, training opportunities, and careers as Jewish professionals;
  2. Urge all Reform congregations, professionals, and laypeople to undertake similar efforts to nurture and encourage individuals to pursue such education, training, and careers;
  3. Urge congregational leaders to support congregations in need of professional leadership by encouraging members of their professional staff to assist underserved congregations and facilitating their efforts. For example, within reasonable bounds, professionals engaging in such efforts should be able to do so without loss of vacation time or professional-development hours; and
  4. Urge the Reform professional organizations-the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the American Conference of Cantors, the Guild of Temple Musicians, the National Association of Temple Educators, and the National Association of Temple Administrators-to encourage their members, particularly those members who are retired or who work part-time or outside congregational life, to assist congregations that lack the Jewish professionals they need with services such as the following:;
    1. Leading worship;
    2. Teaching an adult education course;
    3. Advising a confirmation class;
    4. Officiating at life-cycle events;
    5. Directing an adult or children's choir;
    6. Tutoring b'nei mitzvah students;
    7. Developing curriculum;
    8. Providing teacher training;
    9. Running a school or family retreat; and
    10. Consulting on specific issues such as building maintenance, finances, and capital campaigns.