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The following is the text of the Pacific Area Reform Rabbis (PARR) January 7, 2003 resolution.
In 1978 Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z"l, in a bold and pioneering moment, articulated a vision of Reform Jewish Outreach to intermarrieds. At the time, his vision was a daring break from the traditional position of the Jewish community, which was committed to condemning and rejecting those in our community who married non-Jews. His vision became a guiding principle of Reform Judaism for the next generation and established the Reform movement as pioneers in Outreach. The UAHC-CCAR Commission on Outreach forged a dynamic partnership of Reform lay leaders and rabbis dedicated to transforming the principles of Outreach into positive action in Reform congregations across North America. Others in the American Jewish community followed the lead of the Reform Movement and have adopted many of these same principles of Outreach.
During the subsequent years, the UAHC and individual Reform congregations have welcomed countless non-Jews and intermarried families into the warm embrace of Jewish life. The bold initiative of 1978 was translated into a posture of welcome for those who had historically been excluded from the Jewish community. Intermarried families learned that the Reform movement would provide a place for them to live Jewishly, to explore the dimensions of their Jewish identity and to taste the joys of Jewish life. Many people within and outside the Reform movement have regarded Outreach as one of the core principles of our movement and a beacon to the rest of the Jewish world.
The national staff of the Outreach Department, first led by Lydia Kukoff, and for the last 11 years by Dru Greenwood, has led the way in implementing the Outreach vision by supporting, implementing and developing the programs of Outreach. Many of the familiar and successful programs of Outreach are created on a local level and promoted nationally through the work of the staff. Over the last twenty years the national staff has worked closely with Outreach Directors in each of the UAHC regions. The Regional Outreach Directors foster the work of local congregations, raise awareness of Outreach issues on a local level and work with congregational professional and lay leaders to develop and implement new and innovative programs. The work of Outreach happens at the grassroots level and the regional directors provide context, content and technical support to those who create and execute the programs. They are the vital eyes and ears of the national Outreach staff and make the vision of Outreach a reality.
Recent Budget Decision
The Union was facing a critical budget shortfall that calls for serious, even painful remedial action. In mid-December, Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Russell Silverman, President and Chairman of the Union, announced several actions aimed at resolving the budget shortfall. One of these cuts was the termination of all Outreach Regional Directors, effective March 31, 2003. This decision was communicated to Dru Greenwood, Director of Outreach and Synagogue Community on Tuesday, December 17; termination notice was given to the regional directors that day. Neither Dru Greenwood nor the leadership of the Commission on Outreach and Synagogue Community were consulted while this recommendation was being considered or before it was made. The Regional Directors of the UAHC were also not consulted for their assessment of the impact of such a decision on local congregations.
Therefore, be it resolved that:
1. The members of PARR hereby reaffirm that Outreach is one of the core values of our Reform movement. It is our faithful response to the prophet's call, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."
2. While recognizing the enormous impact Outreach has had since its inception barely two decades ago, the members of PARR recognize and affirm the ongoing need for the support and expertise that our Regional Outreach Directors bring to our congregations.
3. The members of PARR commend in the strongest terms possible the invaluable work that has been performed over the years by our Regional Outreach Directors, Arlene Chernow, Linda Walker, Val Scott, and Nancy Gennet. We regard their contribution to the work that we do to be invaluable and vital to the mission and continuing growth of our Reform movement.
4. The members of PARR express deep concern regarding both the content and process of the decision to sunset the Regional Outreach Director positions. This decision denies our congregations the critical leadership, experience and support our Regional Outreach Directors provide.
5. In light of the negative impact it will have on local congregations, the members of PARR respectfully request that the UAHC reconsider its decision and take the following steps in pursuit of that reconsideration:
A. That the leadership of the UAHC, both elected lay leaders and senior staff, consult with the leadership of the Commission on Outreach and Synagogue Community and with Dru Greenwood, to hear their assessment of the impact this decision will have on the future of Outreach in our synagogues.
B. That the leadership of the UAHC, both elected lay leaders and senior staff, consult with the UAHC Regional Directors and Regional Outreach Committee chairs to hear their assessment of the impact this decision will have on the future of Outreach in our synagogues.
C. That the leadership of the UAHC, both elected lay leaders and senior staff, pursue all appropriate and available means necessary to continue to provide the essential services that our Regional Outreach Directors bring to our congregations.
6. The members of PARR commit themselves to working in partnership with both the lay leaders and senior staff of the UAHC to secure the financial means necessary to sustain the vital work of the Outreach program.