Reconstructionists Look for Leader To Weather Challenging Time

Dan Ehrenkrantz’s Resignation Leaves Movement in Limbo

At a Crossroads: Reconstructionist Judaism has recently revamped its institutions in a bid for long-term sustainability. So why is its top leader leaving the fold?
courtesy of rrc
At a Crossroads: Reconstructionist Judaism has recently revamped its institutions in a bid for long-term sustainability. So why is its top leader leaving the fold?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published March 31, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
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The congregational arms of the Conservative and Reform movements have faced crises of their own in recent years as disgruntled groups of powerful rabbis in each movement have rebelled against the management of the congregational umbrellas.

The Reconstructionists have avoided such internal splits. But insiders say that the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the movement’s congregational arm, was badly damaged and short on funds by 2011, when merger talks began.

“It was clear to me that JRF was not doing a good enough job at helping grow the congregational side of the movement,” said Rosen, the Evanston Reconstructionist rabbi.

The RRC, meanwhile, was seen as well-managed and efficient. It also had money in the bank. Just prior to the 2008 crash, Ehrenkrantz had led a successful fundraising campaign that served to shore up the institution, drawing $50 million in donations. That let the RRC ride out the recession in relative comfort. It also made it possible for the school to effectively take in the JRF, with its mounting financial crisis.

The RRC’s board approved a merger with the JRF in February 2011. Ehrenkrantz, the head of the RRC, would lead the newly merged institution. Negotiations and various layers of approval meant that the final reorganization was not fully approved by both organizations until June 2012.

According to RRC spokeswoman Eileen Fisher, the merger still isn’t technically complete. “There is no formal merger yet,” Fisher wrote in an email, saying that some technical steps remained.

“Its kind of in its embryonic stage right now,” said Rabbi Marc J. Margolius, spiritual leader of West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation in Manhattan, of the merger. “Since it’s never been done, it’s going to take a little bit of time to see how the experiment plays out.”

That might seem to make Ehrenkrantz’s departure all the more perilous. But Rabbi David Teutsch, who leads the RRC’s Center for Jewish Ethics and was Ehrenkrantz’s predecessor as president of the RRC, is unconcerned.

“The merger has gone well,” he told the Forward. “The processes that are taking place this late in the game are mostly about fine-tuning.”


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