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CONGREGATION ETZ CHAYIM REJOINS USCJ ( UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM) AFTER A 15 YEAR HIATUS

posted here March 2, 2022

Congregation Etz Chayim recently became a member of the the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). The USCJ is the major congregational organization of Conservative Judaism in North America, and the largest Conservative Jewish communal body in the world. USCJ closely works with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis.

 

Congregation Etz Chayim gave up its membership in the USCJ  "about 15 years ago in 2007 or 2008," says Avrom Charach, the President of Congregation Etz Chayim.
 

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review what motivated Congregation Etz Chayim to rejoin the USCJ, Charach responded " There were a number of factors but the most important was youth development.  As members of the USCJ we will be rolling out a USY [United Synagogue Youth] program to give our youth the opportunity to participate in fun programming locally and internationally that has Jewish content.   Please note that this does not only mean programming for grades 9-12. UDSY has offerings from grades 3-12 [Chaverim  from grades 3-5, Gesher (formerly Kadima) from grades 6-8 and USY itself from grade 9-12] The other programs and supports offered by USCJ are certainly another benefit as is the fact that we can proudly state that we are a certified Conservative Congregation, the only one in the city that not only has a USCJ trained rabbi but also the stamp of USCJ on our shul and its programs."

 

 According to Charach, the USCJ provides "so many" resources, some of them include

  • The sulam training program for leaders.  This includes not only the president but all levels of synagogue leadership, from board members to staff to certain other key volunteers
  • Regular meetings with other USCJ shuls, both staff and volunteer leadership meetings.  At the moment these are all virtual
  • Individualized coaching of lay and staff leadership as requested by the shuls
  • Assessment of boards, security, financial stability, congregational satisfaction
  • From their brochure: "We regularly run webinars on a variety of topics related to synagogue life including security, fundraising, technology, leadership succession, membership engagement, social justice, and more. Visit our Webinar Archive to access recordings and materials here:"
  • Buying programs with bulk saving on many items including reduced pricing on Streamspot (the platform we use at Congregation Etz Chayim)
  • Certain materials such as the USCJ calendar that are sent to member shuls and or the membership of these shuls.
  •  

In terms of the expense to rejoin as a member of  the USCJ, Charach notes that "We have negotiated a rate with USCJ that makes this affordable to Congregation Etz Chayim for the coming few years.  So while it was not cheap, we are hoping that the membership reflects the importance we place in investing in our future, both our children (through USY) and our shul in general. " 

 

In order to become a member of the USCJ, Congregation Etz Chayim has to operate within the value system of the  USCJ. As Charach states, "We have to attest to abiding by the values of USCJ which means operating within the bounds of the conservative Jewish movement.  That is not an issue for us.  Even before Rabbi Kliel started we were operating within these bounds but he certainly ensures  we do not fall outside them. What are examples?  We can not perform mixed marriages but we can allow non-Jewish partners to participate, in life cycle events within certain guidelines (for example, they can say blessings  on the Bima but they can not have an Aliyah), we are allowed and encouraged to provide equal access to LGBTQ++ members and guests, which is something we started to do more than a year before our previous rabbi retired."

 

Charach adds, "When we presented our intention at our AGM a few months ago to rejoin USCJ our shul membership did not express concerns and indeed since then we have heard words of support form many of our members, mostly those with school aged children."

 

When asked how USY is functioning during Covid, "We have heard that they are doing a lot of on line programing and in person programing as circumstances allow.  We are just starting to plan for or USY activities so have not yet taken an active role; in fact we were invited to send some youth to a Canada only USY convention in a few weeks but declined because we are not yet fully set up and also have concerns around COVID safe participation at this time."

 

 

 
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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