Disgruntled Synagogues Hold Back Confrontational Letter

By Anthony Weiss

Published March 25, 2009, issue of April 03, 2009.

A coalition of presidents from Conservative synagogues has agreed to refrain from sending a confrontational letter to the movement’s leadership, pending a face-to-face meeting within the next few weeks to discuss the presidents’ concerns.

The letter, to which a dozen synagogue presidents had committed as signatories, threatened rebellion or outright secession if the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the congregational arm of the Conservative movement, did not make prompt and drastic changes to its organizational structure. It surfaced after a separate coalition of Conservative rabbis, cantors and lay leaders, known as Hayom, sent a letter that also demanded changes at the USCJ.

Robert Rubin, the treasurer of Congregation Adas Israel in Washington and one of the main coordinators of the presidents’ letter, attended a meeting held March 19 between the USCJ’s leadership and the leaders of Hayom. Pleased by the meeting and by a subsequent meeting with the USCJ’s international president, Raymond Goldstein, Rubin wrote to some 50 synagogue presidents who had shown interest in the letter, to tell them that Goldstein had committed to discussing the presidents’ concerns and that the letter, in turn, is not being sent.

“Given the positive nature of the Hayom meeting and the subsequent discussions with us, we have decided to withhold our letter, in order to engage in additional discussions with the USCJ on reform and value,” Rubin wrote to the synagogue presidents in an e-mail sent on March 23.

Rubin told the Forward that the decision to hold off on sending the letter had received a generally positive response and that roughly 70 synagogues were now interested in being involved with discussions going forward.

Goldstein said that he took the presidents’ move as a positive sign and that he expects to discuss concrete potential changes at the USCJ in the upcoming meeting.

“Since I haven’t seen the letter, we’ll need to understand the specifics and hopefully we can find a way to work together to bring that about,” Goldstein said. “We’ll go into that with open ears so we can hear their concerns and try to find some common ground.”



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