Reform mapping out future

By Simon Rocker, August 11, 2011

The Movement for Reform Judaism has launched a strategic review to set its priorities over the next five-to-10 years.

An 18-page "green paper" published this week is being circulated to its synagogues, inviting members' views on where the central movement should put its annual £3 million budget.

Centred on a set of questions for discussion, the document is "not the way Jewish organisations traditionally go about reforming themselves", said Ben Rich, who became chief executive in May. "Generally they employ a top-down approach. This is completely the opposite."

The plan is to follow up with a "white paper" early next year following feedback from local communities. Final recommendations for action would be made in spring.

Mr Rich said the review was necessary because "we are at a very significant moment in the development of the UK Jewish community.

"This isn't just about the state of Reform Judaism. It is to do with a lot of changes going on across the community, some of them good, some bad."

The Jewish population was shrinking and ageing and younger people were less attached to institutions. "There is a breakdown in old allegiances," he observed.

According to the document, the standing of Reform Judaism has in-creased "significantly" in recent years, yet Reform membership has largely remained static while the Liberals and Masorti have grown.

Mr Rich said the movement accepted that "we have got some things wrong. We have not succeeded in growing allegiance to Reform Judaism, whereas we have succeeded in growing allegiance to Reform values."

It still needed to do more to communicate that Reform was based on "positive values" rather than allow people to think of it as "an absence of Orthodoxy".

The consultation exercise, he explained, was intended to answer the question: "If the Movement for Reform Judaism didn't exist, why would our synagogues choose to invent us?"

Last updated: 12:59pm, August 11 2011