January 3, 2003
The following is the text of the InterfaithFamily.com Network’s eletter which was sent to its 5,400-subscriber list on Jan. 3, 2003 and also distributed to the Outreach Fellows listserv and to the listserv of the UAHC’s National Outreach and Synagogue Community Commission.
On December 17, 2002, the leadership of the Reform Movement (the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, or UAHC) announced a number of cutbacks due to financial constraints. One of the cutbacks is the elimination of the regional outreach coordinator positions, effective March 31, 2003.
If you are a member or leader of a Reform synagogue, we urge you to ask your synagogue’s Rabbi or President (and Executive Committee or Board of Trustees) to ask the UAHC’s leadership to reverse this decision. A draft of a proposed resolution that you or your temple are welcome to use for that purpose is included below.
The implications of this cutback are devastating to the cause of welcoming interfaith families to the Jewish community. The regional outreach coordinators — Jack Kugelmass, Sandy Kellogg, Julie Webb, Ruth Goldberger, Susan Frager, Vicky Farhi, Paula Brody, Ava Harder, Marcia Elbrand, Nancy Gennet, Arlene Chernow, Catherine Fischer, Linda Levin and Wendy Palmer — are an extraordinarily talented and committed group of individuals. They have had a major positive impact, influencing countless thousands of interfaith families toward increased involvement in Jewish life. While there are many outstanding outreach professionals working at federations, JCC’s, Jewish Family Service and other agencies, it is fair to say that thanks to the regional outreach coordinators, more outreach to the intermarried goes on in Reform synagogues than anywhere else.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie is an outstanding leader of the Reform Movement and we have enormous respect for him and the senior professional and lay leadership of the UAHC. But this decision is a grave mistake. We understand that the leadership feels that the goals of outreach — to welcome interfaith families to Reform congregations, to help them make Jewish choices, and to normalize the conversion process — have been largely achieved, and that the headquarters staff in New York can continue to provide vision and program support. But we believe that the great progress that indeed has been made, has been due largely to the regional outreach coordinators’ efforts; that continued progress in welcoming interfaith families to the Jewish community deserves the highest priority and is seriously jeopardized by eliminating the positions; and that the outstanding headquarters outreach staff of Dru Greenwood and Kathy Kahn in New York, even with increased volunteer involvement, simply cannot come anywhere near to providing the level of service that thirteen regional coordinators provide all over North America. If the regional positions are not preserved, we fear that the entire program of Reform Jewish Outreach will be lost.
The Reform Movement is, literally, a union of its member congregations. We believe that if enough congregations speak out, the regional outreach positions can be saved. So we urge you to urge your synagogue leadership to speak out loudly and clearly in favor of saving the regional outreach coordinator positions.
If you would like to participate in our effort, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please keep us posted about what you and your synagogue do in this regard.
With best wishes for a happy new year,
Edmund Case, President & Publisher