Strategic Planning Update - February, 2005
Update from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee
(Excerpted from minutes of the December 2004 Steering Committee Meeting)
Committee Members: Greg Brown, Barbara Friedman, Shifra Bronznick (consultant),
Lewis Barth, Howard Bernstein, Norman Cohen, Ken Ehrlich, Nina Hanan, Larry Hoffman,
Shirley Idelson, Sam Joseph, Bob Kopple, Sheila Lambert, Fred Lane, Sara Lee, Jerry
Lerner, Michael Marmur, Aaron Panken (on sabbatical leave), Terry Rosenberg, Jerry
Teller, Bonnie Tisch
I. Overview of Process
FOCUS: Recent meetings of the Committee have emphasized the need for balance in the strategic planning process:
- Balancing short-range decisions with long-range decisions;
- Balancing deep internal analysis while simultaneously ranging widely so that the various alternatives are understood, both from the perspectives of external and internal stakeholders;
- Creating agreement about decision-making criteria -- that will be applicable for decisions that emerge from this strategic planning process and can also be used to establish mechanisms for setting priorities in the future.
TIMELINE AND PROCESS: Given the magnitude and the scope of the work, the Committee has established a new time line for the strategic planning process. The Board retreat in August will set the stage for exploring emerging recommendations. These recommendations will be developed and presented in writing by the end of December 2005. The strategic plan will be reviewed, discussed and voted on at the Board meeting in February 2006.
To date, the strategic planning subcommittees have been asked to gather information and facts about the present activities of HUC-JIR. A considerable portion of the work to date has involved guided self-assessments prepared by program directors. The self-assessment process will be amplified by feedback from faculty, students, alumni and other stakeholders.
Shifra Bronznick, Barbara Friedman, Greg Brown and Jerry Teller will visit each campus
to meet with groups and individuals of administration, faculty and students. Alumni
will also be interviewed. The intelligence gathered through interviews and site visits
will serve to refine surveys for students and alumni. The feedback from all of these
constituencies will also be used to inform the Committee's and subcommittees' thinking
about a range of strategic issues.
The Subcommittees on Resources, Technology, Benefits and Compensation, Facilities and
Faculty and Student Life are scheduled to begin in-depth work following the February
Strategic Planning Steering Committee meeting.
ESSENTIAL OUTCOMES OF PLANNING: One of the key immediate goals of the
Steering Committee is to develop criteria and the mechanisms that should be
used in planning and assessment. It has been noted that the accreditation
teams emphasized the need to establish a framework for ongoing strategic
planning and assessment at HUC-JIR; a one-time planning process will not
suffice. By having an agreed upon system in place, it becomes possible
to refer to these criteria before any critical decision is made.
It is important to balance our process of making thoughtful, conscientious decisions
that are aligned with HUC-JIR's mission while also responding to market changes and challenges.
The new mechanisms that will emerge from this strategic planning process
are already having an influence with the deans in this year's budget
process, since the deans and other department heads have been asked
to identify their priorities.
COMMUNICATION: The HUC community will be informed about the
strategic planning process by regular updates on the HUC website, of
which they will be notified by email. Feedback is welcome on the
website. A member of the staff will monitor the website for comments
and refer them to the appropriate parties for response. The value
of transparency must be balanced with the importance of providing
appropriate context, so that the entire community can interpret the
II. Mission and Shared Values
The strategic planning process must be anchored in HUC-JIR's mission and
shared values. Every choice contemplated in the strategic planning
process must reflect these values.
The mission and shared values suggest that we must be responsive to the
needs of our core stakeholders (the Reform movement) while seeking to
influence the Jewish community with the
values of liberal Judaism. Thoughtfulness and deliberativeness are critical for our academic
and religious integrity. Simultaneously, the spirit of innovation and the capacity to take
risks are also essential to our ability to fulfill HUC-JIR's role in a changing landscape.
The rabbinic core curriculum document, prepared under the leadership of Norman Cohen,
offers an inspiring model for a well-designed change initiative that reflects
HUC-JIR's core values.
The Committee has discussed the need to understand the risk and value of making changes
and being innovative; to do so requires that we integrate a tolerance of failure into what
we do. This vision should be made manifest in our ongoing work and will be an important
context for the future efforts of the Steering Committee.
The Committee recognizes the need to find a balance between financial viability and
innovation. Jim Collins in his groundbreaking book From Good to Great says that leaders
and organizations need to look at what they are uniquely suited to do and what they are passionate about and that these activities should intersect with financial viability.
What we do must be financially sustainable over time.
The URJ and HUC-JIR have a shared mission to strengthen Reform Judaism.
Members of the Committee have reached out to the leadership of the URJ
and have met with members of their administrative team. It is hoped
that through these discussions we can increase our connection to URJ,
maximizing opportunities for collaboration and partnership.
It was agreed that the question of whether or not our mission statement should
explicitly mention HUC-JIR's responsibility to strengthen the capacity of synagogues
to create compelling communities for Jews requires further exploration. The renewal
and vitality of synagogues is essential to our mission, visibility and identity.
However, the Committee decided that this commitment is implicit in the current
statement of mission and shared values. The Committee has also noted that
HUC-JIR's commitment to Israel is not specifically expressed in the mission
statement, and this issue should be addressed as well in future discussions.
As part of strategic planning, it is essential to understand the external conditions and
trends that affect HUC-JIR. This process takes place in the larger context of changes
among Reform Jews, among Jews, and in the world at large.
As a starting point, the Committee discussed key findings of the National Jewish Population Study from 2000-01. The growth of Reform Judaism, compared to the shrinkage in the Conservative movement, was noted as was the growing access to adult Jewish learning from Jewish studies courses on other college campuses and community-led learning programs for lay leaders. The popularity of programs like the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles sparked a conversation about the emerging need of Jews to be touched and taught in some way, though many Committee members considered the example of the Kabbalah Center to be tangential and almost diversionary as a focus of discussion.
The Committee has discussed the critical role of HUC in educating the Jewish community.
The fundamental issue is the scope of our programming, ranging from educating
professional leaders from rabbis to cantors to communal professionals to professional
educators, to capitalizing on the growing appetite of lay leaders for high quality
educational experiences, to educational outreach to individual Jews.
Clearly, HUC-JIR's core mission is teaching Jewish leaders and Jewish professionals.
The question is whether this can and should be extended to lay leaders and to individual
Jews. Does this detract from HUC-JIR's essential responsibility? Does it conflict with
the roles and responsibilities of HUC-JIR's partner, URJ? These issues need to be
addressed and resolved during the course of the strategic planning process.
IV. Strategic Challenges
The academic program SWOT analyses helped serve as the basis for developing a draft of
initial strategic challenges. In reviewing the emerging themes and issues that were
presented at the October Board meeting as the key strategic challenges of the planning
process, the Committee added and amplified the original thinking as it was reflected in
the October draft document.
One institution, multiple programs should be interpreted in actions that leverage the
distinct resources and strengths of each program for the collective well-being of the
overall institution. Can technology be deployed to assist in avoiding redundancy and duplication?
The Klau Library and the American Jewish Archives are vital to ensure academic excellence.
The strategic challenge as originally outlined should be extended beyond the notion of
expanding access to HUC-JIR's holdings to indicate the importance of preserving and expanding the collection.
Emerging Themes should be expanded to include establishing a framework and process for
making decisions and setting priorities. A robust discussion focused on the critical
need to ensure that these decisions take into account financial viability and
sustainability over the long haul. This change in the decision-making culture in
the institution should be reflected in the budgeting process, in the review process
of prospective grants and in the balance between annual fundraising and endowment.
The Steering Committee explored a range of additions to the emerging themes and
issues, without necessarily categorizing each one. These include the need to:
- Affirm the depth of HUC-JIR's commitment to Israel;
- Ascertain the needs and expectations of HUC-JIR's most important partner, the
Union of Reform Judaism, and strengthen our capacity to meet them;
- Raise the visibility of HUC-JIR in order to enhance development, recruitment and
- Understand the trends in American Jewish life in order to ascertain how HUC-JIR
can deepen its impact on the Reform movement and the Jewish community at large;
- Expand HUC-JIR's capacity to develop leaders for the Reform movement and the
- Work with URJ to ensure the vitality and continuous renewal of
synagogues, helping them to fulfill their potential to create inspiring communities.
- Leverage the full range of external resources for HUC-JIR,
including funding, partnerships and technology;
- Incorporate HUC-JIR's role in being a center for spirituality,
worship and liturgy in addition to its position as the center for intellectual excellence.
V. Overview of the SWOT Analyses of Academic Programs
The Subcommittee on Academic Programs has undertaken a process for program analysis
and self-assessment in order to glean better information about HUC-JIR's
degree-granting programs and to evaluate the strategic issues of each program. This
1. Review of program materials and a brief description of each program
- Program description, goals, etc.
- Accreditation materials
- Available planning documents
- Previous survey data (where applicable)
- Material from "snapshot"
- Available market analyses, e.g., URJ rabbinical study, study of supplemental schooling
- Other appropriate material
2. Internal Program Analysis
- Each program director was asked to analyze his/her program.
- A subcommittee member acted as facilitator to guide the evaluation and lead
discussion at weekly meetings held in August-October.
- A toolkit was provided to aid analysis SWOT, stakeholder, and competitive analysis,
questions for program directors to shape discussions based on earlier developed criteria.
- Themes and Issues were developed.
- SWOT were prioritized separately by each program director and facilitator.
- Preliminary criteria for planning and prioritizing were developed.
3. Financial Analysis of each program
4. Market Analysis
- Constituencies to survey: internal and external stakeholders
- Survey instruments developed: questionnaires, focus groups, other
- Implementation of surveys
- Analysis of survey data
5. Repeat of SWOT, Stakeholder and Competitive analyses based on both internal
and market analysis
6. Planning and prioritization based on developed criteria and analysis
The language of SWOT, specifically of 'threats' - external challenges - should not preclude
our understanding that 'threats' may represent potential opportunities.
VI. Criteria for Establishing Priorities
The Committee has had an initial work session devoted to the development of the criteria
that will be used for establishing priorities and evaluating the present and proposed
activities of HUC-JIR. The discussion on criteria has focused on developing questions
that will help to set priorities based on mission, excellence, financial sustainability,
uniqueness, service to the Reform Movement and the greater community, the ability to
meet stated goals, and the anticipated future needs of our stakeholders.
The Committee will spend considerable time during the course of the next few months to
develop and refine appropriate questions that will become the basis for establishing
priorities and evaluating the activities of HUC-JIR.
VII. Measuring Excellence
To give substance to the aspiration of "attaining excellence", HUC-JIR needs to
define the ways in which it recognizes and measures excellence, quantitatively
and qualitatively. As a starting point, the Committee has begun discussions to
brainstorm about creating indicators of excellence in the following areas:
Students, Faculty, Alumni, Impact on the Reform Movement and Influence on the