United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
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The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is the primary organization of synagogues practicing Conservative Judaism in North America. It closely works with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.
|Headquarters||New York, NY 10017|
Chief Executive Officer
|Rabbi Steven Wernick|
Role and description
The USCJ has over 675 congregations as of 2009[update] (down from 850 in 1985). The USCJ works in the fields of Jewish education, youth activities, congregational standards and action and Israel affairs, and published the magazine United Synagogue Review.
Historically, the Jewish Theological Seminary has taken the leadership role in the Conservative movement (unlike the Reform movement, whose congregational organization has dominated its rabbinical school).
The diminished number of affiliated congregations noted above raised serious concern in the first decade of the century as new congregational forms, often populated by people who were educated in the Conservative movement, have become popular. The Conservative movement is perceived to have lost its uniqueness as its once-path-finding ideology of tradition and change has spread to and become a bedrock assumption of the Reform, Reconstructionist and "Renewal" groups, where services use Hebrew and traditional prayers, (often in updated versions) where study of traditional texts is considered important, where halakha is treated with both respect and flexibility, and where egalitarian gender practices prevail.
The diminished population of USCJ and its congregations is seen by many[according to whom?] as a symptom of a weak organizational culture in the USCJ itself. A strategic plan undertaken in the 1990s was squelched when the report challenged many of the USCJ's practices. In 2010, dissension reached the point at which a coalition known as Hayom ("Today") was formed and threatened to break away from USCJ if significant changes were not undertaken. The creation of this coalition was in part a response to a restructuring announced by the new executive director, Rabbi Steven Wernick, without input from the field. A new strategic planning committee was formed, co-opting the Hayom group, and in March 2011 a draft of a new plan was announced and posted on the USCJ website.
United Synagogue sponsors the following projects:
- United Synagogue Youth (USY), a youth group with chapters across the United States and Canada.
- The Schechter Day School Network, which provides leadership and services to approximately 50 Jewish day schools affiliated with the Conservative movement.
- Project Reconnect, which seeks to reconnect alumni of USY, Atid, Koach, Nativ, the Conservative Yeshiva, Camp Ramah, the Solomon Schechter schools, the Leadership Training Fellowship, and other Conservative movement programs.(defunct in 2013)