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The following is the text of the Resolution approved by the Executive Committee of Temple Shalom of Newton, MA and posted on January 3, 2003 on the Temple presidents, Hebrew Union College graduates, and Outreach Fellows listservs.
The Executive Committee of Temple Shalom of Newton, Mass., has just endorsed, and is now asking our Board of Trustees to approve, a resolution (see below) urging the UAHC's leadership to postpone, reconsider, and ultimately reverse the decision to eliminate the regional outreach coordinator positions. We urge you to bring this resolution to your synagogue's leadership. We believe that if enough congregations speak out on this issue, the critically important Reform Jewish Outreach program can be saved. For the reasons stated in the resolution, we believe that that is essential to the continuing growth and vitality of our Reform Movement. So that we can all be aware of developments, please inform this list of any actions that your temple takes.
Edmund Case, Past President Temple Shalom (1,000 families) Newton, Mass.
We respectfully request that the leadership of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations postpone and reconsider its December 17, 2002 decision to eliminate the regional outreach coordinator positions effective March 31, 2003.
* We believe that welcoming interfaith families, encouraging their Jewish choices and normalizing the conversion process are central to the vision and continuing growth of Reform Judaism.
* We believe that over the past twenty years great progress toward these goals has been made in Reform synagogues. This is in no small measure due to the work of the extraordinarily professional and devoted regional outreach coordinators. Without these talented and committed professionals, many of our congregations would be at a loss in dealing with our growing interfaith population.
* Furthermore, we believe that the efforts of this staff cannot be equalled by a small New York staff and volunteers if outreach is to continue to be a priority of the Reform Movement as we believe it should.
We recognize that the Movement faces serious financial constraints and we respect the difficult decisions that were made regarding cutbacks in a number of areas. However, we believe that the elimination of the regional outreach positions has broad policy implications and we therefore urge the Movement's leadership to reconsider and find other development alternatives.
We respectfully request that the UAHC leadership reconsider and ultimately reverse its decision to eliminate the regional outreach coordinator positions.
* * * * *
From an additional posting by Edmund Case on presconf on January 4:
It's true that outreach is not being "eliminated." But continuing with the headquarters staff and volunteers cannot even approximate the service that the exceptionally skilled and devoted regional coordinators provide. Ask your own rabbi if that isn't true. This in no way detracts from Dru Greenwood (who I've known and worked with for ten years) or Kathy Kahn, who are outstanding people. But what can they accomplish with the arms and legs of Reform Jewish Outreach cut off?
The leadership describe this issue as purely one of necessary cuts -- if these cuts aren't made, others will have to be. And they say that the Union can't raise dues. We are not saying that other worthy programs should be cut instead, and we are not saying that dues should be raised. But the leadership is avoiding talking about the obvious point that alternative sources of funding could be sought to fund the outreach positions! For example -- the outreach department is called the William and Lottie Daniel Department of Outreach because those generous supporters of outreach endowed it with substantial funding -- which shows that additional contributions from individuals could be sought. For another example -- the Union could seek funding for the outreach positions from local federations -- which it has done in Boston, where Combined Jewish Philanthropies contributes over $100,000 a year to the Northeast Region for outreach provided by UAHC staff (I sit on the CJP committee that allocates that funding).
Instead of summarily announcing the elimination of the positions in three months' time, the leadership could have announced that due to financial constraints, the positions would have to be reduced or eliminated starting at a set date in the future, unless earmarked funding were found to cover some or all of their cost. There is still time to adopt that approach, and preserve the people and the program that have brought countless thousands of interfaith families into Jewish life in our Reform synagogues.