URJ Presidential Search Committee Status Report

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Robert Heller, chair
November 4, 2010

When Rabbi Eric Yoffie announced last June that he will be retiring from his position as Union for Reform Judaism President in June 2012, Board Chair Peter Weidhorn appointed a Presidential Search Committee to begin the difficult task of finding and recommending a successor to the Board. The Committee, which includes the 30 people listed below plus Peter, is diverse in terms of geography, congregational size and gender. Among its members are Union officers and Executive Committee members, members of the leadership of HUC-JIR, CCAR and Union affiliates, and, for the first time, sitting congregational presidents who have not served on the Union’s Board. It is chaired by Robert Heller, Immediate Past Chair of the Union.

The Committee recognizes the need to maintain strict confidentiality concerning its deliberations, the identity of candidates who may be under consideration and other sensitive matters. At the same time, transparency about the process is important. The search is wide open and we seek to conduct a comprehensive effort to find the right leader for our Union and Movement at a time of great challenges and great opportunities. The Committee has been reaching out to members of the Reform community in an effort to get input. Many of those with whom we have spoken have emphasized that this is a difficult but exciting moment in our history. We found an overwhelming consensus that the next President should be an appropriate leader for the 21st Century, one who will work in collaboration with volunteer and professional leaders across our Movement and seize the opportunity to shape the future of progressive Judaism in North America.

The Committee has prepared a job posting, now on the CCAR employment site, reflecting that consensus. We are reproducing the key parts of the listing here so that all our constituents can see it. The Committee invites, in particular, any comments you may have concerning individuals whom you think we should encourage to apply for the position. Because of the need for confidentiality, we ask that any suggestions be sent directly to Bob Heller (rheller@kramerlevin.com) rather than to the Union offices.

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Position: President of the Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (the “URJ” or the “Union”) seeks a new President to serve as its spiritual, visionary, and inspirational leader. Success today requires continual adaptation to address the needs of the URJ’s member congregations, enhance Reform Jewish identity, and nurture a sense of connection within the Reform Jewish community. We are seeking a 21st Century leader: a visionary, collaborative, entrepreneurial team builder who will work with the Union’s professional and lay leadership and our Reform institutions to mobilize the Movement to shape the Jewish future in North America.

The President’s roles and responsibilities will differ considerably from those of his/her predecessors. The URJ Presidential Search Committee (“the Committee”) believes that the position encompasses at least four (4) primary functions:

1. The URJ President represents North American Reform Jews and their congregations to the Reform Movement, to the broader Jewish community and to the world. The President, as a role model, orator, and writer (utilizing traditional and new forms of media) is the Reform Movement’s public face in addressing issues of religious, moral and ethical significance.

2. The URJ President is a catalyst for anticipating, and shaping the Reform Movement’s response to, the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing environment, where affiliation and engagement with the Jewish religious world can no longer be assumed. The Committee believes that, as we move forward, there are not, and should not be, any preconceived notions of what will best serve the Reform Movement.

3. The President is the URJ’s professional leader. In collaboration with the professionals on the Union staff and the lay leadership, the President provides strategic vision for and management oversight of the URJ. One measure of the President’s success will be the ability to inspire, motivate and lead: the staff, the URJ Board, our congregations, our congregants, and our Movement. The President will continue to have the authority to supervise, hire and terminate all Union staff.

4. The President must have the acumen and passion for raising the funds needed to enable the Union to fulfill its mission.

The Committee seeks a seasoned Reform Rabbi who is a member in good standing of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and has successfully translated vision into reality.

Candidates should have the ability to:

-- Establish strategies and priorities that meet the current and future needs of the Union;
-- Recognize and embrace change in an evolving landscape. This includes convening the proper groups to identify trends, develop solutions and mobilize the needed resources to implement them (whether the needed change is structural, programmatic, staff or otherwise)
-- In addition to collaborating with and motivating the Union’s staff and its lay leaders, work in cooperation and partnership with the leadership of HUC-JIR, CCAR, as well as all the other institutions, and affiliates of the Movement ;
-- Develop high performing teams to serve Reform congregations and the Movement;
-- Serve as a visible presence in the Reform Jewish community by frequently meeting with and visiting rabbis, congregations, camps and other constituent elements of the Movement and;
-- Represent the interests of the Reform Movement and Progressive Judaism in Israel and throughout the world.

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Search Committee Members
Tom Abelson
Mark Anshan
Rabbi Peter Berg
Ken Birenbaum
Aaron Bloom
Bill Blumstein
Louise Burger
Raymond Capelouto
Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus
Michael Freidman
Barbara Friedman
Allan Goldman
Susan Gordon
Cantor Kay Greenwald
Cheryl Gutmann
Robert Heller
Eve Kurtin Steinberg
Norman Leopold
Gail Littman
Jan Marion
Steve Pruzan
Charles Rothschild
Steve Sacks
Rosanne Selfon
Jerome Somers
Carole Sterling
Jane Taves
Peter Weidhorn
Mauri Willis
Peter Winik
Michael Wolf


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu