On the job for barely two months, the new chief executive of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Steven Wernick, is announcing a restructuring of the organization. For some critics, United Synagogue has been a poster child for the movement’s ills and Wernick, who spoke to JTA in our offices Thursday morning, wants to make it smaller and better, reducing the number of regions from 15 to six and eliminating five positions in the main office, with more layoffs likely to come.
Synagogues have complained for some time that they don’t get enough value for their dues to the organization, and Wernick says he is determined to change that. He also wants to reform an unwieldy organization that is “over-institutionalized,” with a bloated board and insufficient accountability. On this front, the organization’s board will be voting this week on proposed governance and structural changes aimed at granting Wernick more authority, while also making the United Synagogue more directly accountable to the congregations that pay the dues.
“The fundamental goal of United Synagogue has to be strengthening synagogues,” Wernick said.
Many young Conservative Jews fall off the map between college and having children, and Wernick’s reorganization aims to place programming for youth and young adults under one heading and provide “seamless programming” as individuals progress from one age group to the next.
SOURCE: JTA Philanthropy Newsletter for Sept. 10, 2009