The monthly newsletter for Reconstructionist Leaders
January 2017
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In This Newsletter

Statements From the Movement

Updates for Your Board: What Happened at the December Plenum?

Upcoming Networks

New Resources: Our Communities in the News

RRC in the News

What We're Reading

How to Reach Us
Important Dates

January 29
New York Day of Reconstructionist Learning
February 13
Chesapeake Presidents’ and Leadership Forum
March 19
Chesapeake Day of Reconstructionist Learning and Annual Celebration
May 5-7
Pacific Northwest Shabbaton
November 15-18, 2018
Reconstructionist Convention

Latest Reconstructionism Today
Updates for Your Board
What Are Reconstructionists Doing?
Are the members of your congregation receiving the latest news from the Reconstructionist movement? Do you feel your community would be curious about how Reconstructionists are making a difference or wants new resources and nuggets of wisdom?
Encourage your community to subscribe to our movement email newsletters! Anyone can pick the emails they'd like to receive to stay up to date about the things they care about.
Share this link with your community:
Hazon Israel Trip
The Reconstructionist Movement is pleased to make this opportunity from a mission-aligned organization available to our members!

Over the last decade, Hazon has run successful trips to Israel – sustainable food tours, in-depth examinations of mission-driven communities, and a longtime Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. The Sustainable Israel Tour (March 13 - 19, 2017) is for a small number of Hazon stakeholders, and offers the best of these programs​.
​Participants will meet activists at the cutting edge of mindful food practices and sustainable society in Israel. We'll ​learn how these innovators are driving change in light of food, climate, and political insecurity​. And we'll ​explore Israel through its food, nature, cultural, and economic innovation​.​

The cost (excluding flights but including accommodations for ​six​ nights, food, and tours) is $4,000 per person in a shared room.
Click here for info and registration, or email or
Tell Us Your Inspiring Story!
Has your life been transformed by a Reconstructionist rabbi or congregation? Has the life of anyone you know?
Has the Reconstructionist approach to Judaism made positive Jewish experience more accessible to you or someone you know? Has your community worked on a unique project or initiative?
We want to hear about the impact Reconstructionism is having upon the world and people’s lives. And we plan to share those stories in a variety of ways.
Please let us know by filling out this form!
While we might not be able to use every story submitted, we would love to hear from you. Of course, we will contact you before using your material in any fashion.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Rachael Burgess at or 215.576.0800, ext. 141 or Bryan Schwartzman at or 215.576.0800, ext. 121.
Can We Receive Your Newsletter?
We know there are many things going on in your community and we’d love to hear all about them. Please add to your email distribution list so members of our Affiliate Support department will receive and read your newsletter.
Thank you for helping us stay in touch!
The Plenum Met On December 4. Wondering What Happened?

The Reconstructionist Plenum is a very important governance body made up of representatives from each affiliated congregation. We had representatives from 39 of our congregations participating in our December 4 meeting.
The conversation was led by Plenum Chair Abe Clott, who also serves as Chair of the Congregational Services Committee on the RRC Board.

Movement Update from the office of RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities President Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., RRC '99
Our raison d’etre as a movement has never been more relevant than at this time, given the political shifts in our country and elsewhere in the world. Some of the things that we’re doing now include:
  • Investing in leadership training – training progressive, moral religious leaders in a robust, non-Orthodox perspective to offer a vital, compelling approach to how/why to be Jewish in the 21st century. RRC /Jewish Reconstructionist Communites is determining how we can be involved in developing other forms of leadership as well.  
  • Supporting congregations – during these challenging times, the community ties, solidarity and values congregations offer people are very important. We’ll continue to offer a range of resources and interactive learning experiences to our affiliates. New and growing initiatives include the Learning Networks and participation in programs such as the Global Day of Jewish Learning.  
  • Representing the Reconstructionist perspective in the public square – Rabbi Waxman has done some public writing especially during the recent campaign cycle. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Ph.D., RRC ‘82, has been working on remarkable multi-faith efforts that forge stronger connections to progressive approaches to religion in our society. We’re developing new resources on various media platforms op-eds, articles, podcasts. 
  • Building a second Camp JRF – building on our successes and looking ahead to our newly planned West Coast camp.  
  • Exploring Israel – We're strengthening our connection with Israel through the No’ar Hadash trip, our Reconstructionist Birthright trip, and a growing relationship with IsraelExperts.
    [Note: The Birthright trip was a tremendous success and concluded in late December. Check out photos on RRC’s Facebook page. More information to come!]  
  • Increasing representation of the Reconstructionist movement – Rabbi Waxman and others are increasingly representing the movement in forums such as Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and Faith in the Public Square.  
  • Exploring our identity – this year-long process continues as we look for deeper understanding of who we are and how we present ourselves to the wider world.
Regarding the recent election campaign and issues that have impacted our communities:
  • Jewish groups have noted with concern the increase in anti-Semitic acts, as well as the vulnerabilities faced by other minority groups in this atmosphere, with special attention to Muslims in America.  
  • We understand that our members are not unanimous in their politics, that all voters want to be heard and understood, and that there are different ideas about how our communities can best do constructive work going forward.  
  • The great majority of our members have been profoundly affected. Affiliate Support is having conversations with rabbis and lay leaders who are asking important questions about how to focus and channel their energies given the intensity and breadth of the social/political impacts of this election cycle.  

Ratification of the June 2016 Board Slate
Part of the role of the Plenum is to ratify the slate of the RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities Board of Governors. Michael Lurey and Rabbi Lina Zerbarini, RRC ‘97, (rabbinic governor) were on the slate for three-year terms, Abe Clott was proposed for a second three-year term, and Susan Beckerman, Joseph N. Cohen, Bill Fern, David Roberts, Miriam Roland, Eric Rosenbaum, and Rabbi Avi Winokur, RRC ’91, were on the slate for additional three-year terms. The motions to in favor of these members passed.
Resolution in Solidarity with and Affirming the Rights of Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People
During the Spring 2016 Plenum meeting, the Plenum aspired to send the Board of Governors a resolution advocating for the inclusion and welcoming of people of all gender identities and gender expressions into the Reconstructionist movement. While this resolution did pass, there were problems with language in the document and it was not forwarded on to the board. Specifically, there was concern over the phrase “people of transgender experience.”

The Plenum approved a revised statement and forwarded it to the RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities board.
Report on Affiliate Support
Tresa Grauer, Assistant Vice President for Affiliate Support, reported her team is:
  • Assigning a staff liaison for each affiliate
  • Modifying the structure of the Aviv Loan Fund to make it a more attractive tool for stimulating congregational growth
  • Disseminating responsive resources in the wake of major societal events, like the election
  • Developing a Welcoming Poster for use by our affiliates. See more information here.
  • Consulting with affiliates as needed
  • Visiting affiliates when possible
  • Participating in the Global Day of Jewish Learning and regional Limmud gatherings
  • Planning a regional Shabbaton in the Pacific Northwest
  • Announcing a Reconstructionist Convention 11/16 – 11/18/2018 in Philadelphia
Convention: we’ll be organizing a program committee very soon. If you are interested, please contact Tresa Grauer ( 
Report on Innovation and Impact
Cyd Weissman, Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Impact, discussed the launch of the Reconstructionist Learning Networks. Three major goals for the Learning Networks are:
  1. Find ways the Learning Networks strengthen participants’ ties that bind them to one another
  2. Find ways the Learning Networks enable participants to learn and to teach valuable content
  3. Find ways the Learning Networks support constructive action on the part of participants
As of early December, 119 people have registered from over 30 congregations for the Learning Networks. Nine new Learning Networks will launch soon.
Cyd also announced that the Henry Luce Foundation awarded a $425,000 grant to RRC's Multifaith initiative directed by Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer. The initiative will support chaplains from diverse faith traditions on college campuses.
Please email Cyd Weissman with questions ( 
Maurice Harris, Associate Director of Affiliate Support, explained that he is the lead staff person on Israel.

Maurice is working with IsraelExperts, an Israel-based tour operator and our primary partner for group travel to Israel and potentially the Palestinian Territories. IsraelExperts helped organize our first Reconstructionist Birthright trip in December. 

We are hoping to help multiple affiliates work together to go on Israel trips jointly.

Maurice is happy to discuss with you ( 
Israel Commission
David Roberts, Chair of the Board of Governors, introduced a motion to approve the establishment of the Israel Commission. He recapped the history of the recently expired Israel Task Force, some of the key issues that the Task Force found difficult to work with, and the steps that have taken place at RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and in the RRA to arrive at a framework for designing and launching the Israel Commission.
There was concern that there was not much lead time for the Plenum representatives to review the materials and bring the information to their boards to discuss. Rabbi Waxman explained that the lack of more lead time for Plenum reps to study the Israel Commission proposal stemmed mainly from the late realization on the part of staff that a Plenum vote should be held. Previously, the shared understanding within the RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the RRA’s leadership was that the Israel Commission was being formed as a commission of the two arms of the movement; a vote of approval by the RRC Board and by the RRA Board, therefore, would suffice to establish it. But in the final preparations for the Plenum call, several RRC staff realized that the Israel Commission has important implications for the Plenum, and after some brief discussions the decision was made to change what had been listed as an Israel Commission progress report to a Plenum vote.
There will be an application process open to our affiliates for lay people interested in joining the Israel Commission.
The motion did pass, but the number of abstentions made lay leaders feel as though Plenum representatives did not have sufficient time to present the proposal to their boards. We will schedule a re-vote shortly. 
Update on the Status of the Dues Proposal
Seth Rosen, Chair of the Community Engagement Committee and Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors, reported that we’ve seen a decline in dues over the last 10 years. About 18 months ago, the Board of Governors established a Dues Working Group to recommend changes to our affiliate dues system. Dues provide about six percent of our budget, as compared with 15 and 35 percent of the budgets of our counterparts in the Reform and Conservative movements, respectively. The Dues Working Group prepared a comprehensive Green Paper, which was provided to the Plenum six months ago, and was included again in the documents provided for this Plenum. The working group learned that people generally didn’t want to talk much about dues. They also concluded that completely scrapping the existing system wasn’t advisable at this time, and that the existing system does have some positive elements. The working group recommends keeping essentially the same system in place, with some modifications (see the material below for more details).
Click here to listen to the meeting recording, read the meeting minutes, or view the meeting materials.
Upcoming Networks
Networks meet three to six times a year online for about an hour each session. At least six people are required for each network. Networks are capped at 12 participants unless otherwise specified, and a waitlist will be created if a network reaches capacity.

2/9/17 How do you serve college students who want to save the world, but can’t manage to talk to their own roommates?
2/15/17 How do network/COP (Community of Practice) leaders have the greatest impact in the Jewish community?
2/16/17 Reconstructionist Incubator: How might we move bold ideas to action?

3/29/17 How can we foster enriching interfaith conversations that invite people to dare to understand?

If you have any questions, please contact Rory Schonning at or 215.576.0800, ext. 131.
New Resources

Hard Questions/Thoughtful Responses: Movement for Black Lives
Hard Questions/Thoughtful Responses is an experiment to support our affiliates when challenging contemporary issues emerge. The goal is to gather examples of thoughtful and diverse responses from Reconstructionists around the country, package them together into a single resource document, and share that document with Reconstructionist leaders so they can use it for sermons, discussions, adult education, tikkun olam committees, etc.
The first product of this experiment is a collection of different voices within our movement, offering various thoughtful perspectives on discussion of Israel in the Platform of the Movement for Black Lives.
We hope that this resource will give different people in our movement a chance to share their thoughts with each other across great distances, and get a sense of how other Reconstructionist communities are responding to challenging issues. We very much want your feedback, especially regarding whether you would like to see more resources like this one distributed in the future. Please share feedback with Rabbi Maurice Harris at
Prayers and Resources: Reconstructionist Responses to the 2016 Presidential Election
During a very stressful presidential election, Reconstructionist rabbis, educators, and lay people created powerful opportunities across the nation for people to gather, to hug each other, cry together, sing together, and listen to each other. The linked resources provide a few of those resources that may be helpful to your community. 
Can You Hear Me Now? Facebook Group
Last fall, a Reconstructionist Learning Network set out to explore ways congregations can cut through the noise of a busy world and communicate with the wider community in meaningful ways. The group discussed social media, news outreach, the needs of young parents and marketing strategies. While the meetings are over (for now), you can still hear the discussions, find resources, learn about what other Reconstructionist congregations are doing, stay up to date on the newest outreach trends, and ask advice from more than 30 other Reconstructionist communities. Join our Facebook group! For more information, email Rachael Burgess at

Membership and Engagement:
Rules of Engagement [eJewish Philanthropy]

Tackling Torah [blog]

Kaddish: A Podcast on Death and Mourning [Podcast]

Spirit in Practice [Podcast]

“Eco-Judaism: Is There Any Other Kind?! – How Torah Pushes the Sustainability Envelope.” [Online workshop led by Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, RRC ‘97]
How to Reach Us:

Tresa Grauer, Assistant Vice President for Affiliate Support;; 215.576.0800, ext. 144
Cyd Weissman, Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Impact;; 215.576.0800, ext. 257
Rabbi Joel Alpert, Director of Rabbinic Placement;; 215.576.0800, ext. 304
Jackie Land, Associate Director of Community Engagement;; 302.500.0863
Rabbi Maurice Harris, Associate Director of Community Engagement,; 215.576.0800, ext.  118
Rory Schonning, Community Engagement Assistant,; 215.576.0800, ext. 131
Rachael Burgess, Editor of Leadership Brief and Reconstructionism Today,; 215.576.0800, ext. 141
Rabbi Amber Powers, Executive Vice President,; 215.576.0800, ext. 150

Our business hours are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET; Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ET

1299 Church Road, Wyncote, PA 19095
P: 215.576.0800 | F: 215.576.6143

.RRC | Jewish Reconstructionist Communities | Ritualwell | Gateways to Israeli-Jewish Renaissance

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