Conservative Judaism's Umbrella Group Cuts 15 Jobs and Regional Operations

USCJ Realigns Structure

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 14, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Conservative Judaism’s North American congregational umbrella has announced the elimination of its regional operations as it begins to implement the strategic plan it adopted this spring.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism terminated 15 staff members and reshuffled others while announcing success in its early fundraising efforts and cuts to membership dues.

The moves signal the start of an effort to revive the USCJ, which faces steeply declining membership and revenue, following months of debate within the Conservative movement over the organization’s future.

“This is a moment of great change within our community,” the USCJ executive vice president and CEO, Rabbi Steven Wernick, and international president, Richard Skolnik, wrote in an internal memo circulated June 14.

The USCJ board approved the new USCJ strategic plan, the result of a collaboration between a group of powerful dissident Conservative synagogues and the umbrella group’s leadership, in March. The plan proposed to reinvigorate the USCJ by broadening the movement’s base, developing new revenue streams and decreasing costs.

The staff cuts come two years after a round of layoffs that resulted in the elimination of 12 positions. USCJ leadership warned of these latest cuts as early as February, but did not specify then how many employees would be let go.

“The congregations have been expecting some form of budget relief, and budget relief inevitably means either additional third-party funding or cutting expenditures, and this represents one of those responses,” said Steven M. Cohen, a prominent sociologist of the American Jewish community who consulted with the USCJ during the strategic planning process but is not involved in its implementation.

The restructuring effectively scraps the organization’s regional operations in favor of a network of outreach staff managed out of the USCJ’s central office.

“Their departure is the most difficult part of our restructuring efforts, for us personally and for United Synagogue as a whole,” Wernick and Skolnick wrote of the fired employees in their memo. “This part of the plan involves a number of people who have been with us for a very long time, including senior staffers.”

Kathy Elias, who now directs the USCJ’s mid-Atlantic district, will lead the new outreach network. Ray Goldstein, who directs the Central district, will also be involved in the network’s operation.

The USCJ also announced the hiring of Jerry Herman as the organization’s new chief operating officer.

In addition to staff cuts, the USCJ has decreased the dues payments it asks of its member synagogues — a key expectation prior to the strategic planning process. In late May, the USCJ informed member synagogues that it would cut its 2012 dues by 5% for synagogues that pay before the end of 2011. In return, it asked synagogues to provide the USCJ with an updated mailing list of all congregation members.

The USCJ also announced early success in fundraising, another goal of the strategic plan. In their internal memo, Wernick and Skolnik wrote that the organization had received $800,000 in new commitments for the next three years.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.