(Page 3 of 3)
USCJ currently pays Cohen’s salary as network director, and that of her support staff, as well as another $50,000 annually for various expenses, in keeping with its role as Schechter’s institutional sponsor. (Wernick would not disclose the dollar amount that Cohen earns.) Schechter currently has its own board of directors, composed of principals from several schools. While these school principals have the best of intentions, Wernick said, their priorities lie with their individual schools.
“Schechter needs a board that is totally committed to the Schechter enterprise and its vision and mission,” said Wernick.
Among the options Schechter is actively considering, joining RAVSAK, the consortium of independent day schools, may be the boldest, since it would reposition the Conservative network outside of a Conservative institutional setting. Marc Kramer, RAVSAK’s executive director, said that he invited Schechter to come under RAVSAK’s umbrella a year ago. The schools, he said, would remain branded as Conservative institutions while sharing resources with and paying dues to RAVSAK.
Kramer’s assurances notwithstanding, many Conservative leaders view the prospect of joining RAVSAK as less than palatable. Schechter schools are more traditional in their approach to Jewish education than many RAVSAK schools; they keep kosher kitchens, and the network asks the children of patrilineal Jews to convert, a policy in line with the Conservative movement’s stance on mixed marriage families.
“We see a need for a RAVSAK school network. We see a need for a Schechter school network,” said Rogozen. “There is no need for any merger for us each to achieve our goals.”
Joel Siegel, a USCJ board member, echoed this view: “I believe it is vital for Schechter to remain within the orbit of Conservative institutions.”
Cohen, however, sees joining RAVSAK as one of several possibilities to salvage her network.
“It would be our intention not to be subsumed under [RAVSA K] but to have a partner relationship,” she said. “Many options are in play.”