CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 1

CENTRAL

CONFERENCE

OF

AMERICAN

RABBIS

NEWS

Founded In

1889

‫אדר-ניטן-אייר תשע״ג‬

Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

March/April– Number 9
Volume 56 2013 | Volume 60 – Issue 4

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬
FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RABBINIC PLACEMENT
Alan Henkin

FROM THE PRESIDENT
Jonathan A. Stein

A

s we prepare to gather for our annual CCAR Convention in
Long Beach, I am contemplating many recent conversations about
the challenges that confront our current placement system.
The feedback on that system, shared by colleagues during regional kallot
these past few months, has been instructive and wise.

Dear Chevrah,
In early March, my two-year
term as your President will
come to an end. It has been
a singular opportunity to
serve you and to represent
the Reform rabbinate at
the highest levels of our
movement and the greater Jewish world.
These two years have been a once-in-a-lifetime
moment that I have cherished and for which I
will remain forever grateful.
My volunteer work for the Conference began
as a regional president for the Great LakesOhio Valley area, as chair of the Reform
Movement’s Commission on Jewish Education,
as a member of the Conference’s Budget and
Finance committee and, in what I thought
would be the culmination of my CCAR career,
as Editor of the CCAR Journal. And then,
about four and a half years ago, I received an
unexpected phone call from then-President
Peter Knobel asking me to consider becoming
Vice-President of the Conference, an office
that then served as a virtual President-elect. It
is not an offer that one considers: I accepted
immediately and worried about the details later!
My congregation’s rabbis have a long history of
serving the CCAR. Rabbi Bernard Bamberger
(of blessed memory) also served as President
of the Conference; in addition, he was
President of the World Union for Progressive
Judaism. Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum chaired
the CCAR’s Hesed Fund, originally dedicated
to serving rabbinic widows without pensions,
and a year from now will become President of
NAORRR. Rabbi Deborah Hirsch has served
as CCAR Financial Secretary and now is a
member of the Ethics Committee. Shaaray
Tefila has historically shared its rabbis with the
CCAR, and I have been honored to follow in
these footsteps.
My responsibilities primarily entailed leading
(Continued on page 12)

Following many years of unsuccessful plans for a placement system, the
CCAR, the UAHC and HUC-JIR eventually approved a plan in 1961. That
plan called for the creation of a placement office staffed by one director
and one assistant with a simple mandate: placing CCAR members
in UAHC congregations. That placement model has endured for
50 years with occasional tweaks, but has remained essentially
unchanged despite the 150% growth of the CCAR and the doubling
of the number of congregations of the UAHC/URJ.

“Most
importantly the
demographics
The Jewish world has changed enormously in the past 50 years
and our current system of placement is facing challenges undreamt of the American
of in 1961. Consider, for example, the proliferation of seminaries
Jewish
unaffiliated with any movement; they are ordaining rabbis with
varying degrees of rabbinic competence who are vying with CCAR
community
members for rabbinic positions both within and outside of the
Reform Movement. Also, some lawyers are now arguing that rabbinic
have shifted
placement systems constitute illegal cartels and violate antitrust laws.
dramatically.”
Most importantly, the demographics of the American Jewish
community have shifted dramatically. The recession of 2008 exposed fissures and introduced
permanent structural changes in the way synagogues function, and the fact that American
Jews’ birthrates are dropping points to a shrinking population. What’s more, under Rick Jacobs
visionary leadership, the URJ is concentrating more on young people and more on those
outside the traditional synagogue walls. For example, in a bold move the URJ Board recently
approved a policy of allowing leaders from non-URJ congregations to take part in the Biennial
Conventions, and now, regardless of synagogue affiliation, individuals can attend URJ camps
and Israel programs, and even join NFTY.
All this suggests that the time has come to remake the business model of the CCAR placement
system. When I have proposed this to our colleagues at the kallot, the response has been: “Of
course,” “This is a no-brainer,” and “It’s about time.”
What will a new placement system look like? How will it function? Whom will it serve? Many
of these answers will come from you in the coming months, as well as from the leaders
and members of the communities we serve and need to be serving. To be sure, we need
a placement system that still places our rabbis in URJ congregations. We must maximize
placement opportunities wherever Jews may be found: in community-based positions, in World
Union congregations, and even in congregations not yet formally identified with the Reform
Movement. The CCAR is committed to building an outstanding placement system to meet the
needs of a 21st Century rabbinate and Jewish community.
Kol Tuv,
Alan
1



CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013

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