The monthly newsletter for Reconstructionist Leaders
March 2016
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In this Newsletter:

What You Need to Know:
          Affiliation Renewal for 2016-2017
          New Ways to Finance Our Movement
Introducing Reconstructionist Learning Networks
Compassion Fatigue: What Is It and How Can Leaders Help?
News from RRC
News from Reconstructionist Communities
How To Reach Us

Welcome to the Leadership Brief, an email from RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities designed specifically for you – a leader in our Reconstructionist community.
This monthly message will contain news from us and insiders’ views from other congregations. You’ll learn not just what they did, but how they accomplished it. You’ll hear (and maybe share yourself) the challenges and how to overcome them, the lessons you can learn, and the capabilities you can develop in your community.
We’ll also feature links to tools and information from our community, and from outside it, that you can use to help your members, your staff, your boards and yourself to be more effective, more connected to each other and more fulfilled by the important work you’re doing.
We hope to connect with you, and more importantly to connect you to each other in a network of community leaders. We aim to make it easier for you to learn from each other, to share with each other and to work with each other to strengthen your local communities and our “community of communities.”
We believe that we are stronger, more deeply human, and more deeply Jewish when we pray, build, mourn, celebrate and learn together. We look forward to learning with and from you and to strengthening our Reconstructionist Judaism together.


Alan Halpern
VP for Community Engagement
Important Dates:

March 24
NY/NJ/CT Presidents' Forum

March 24

April 1
NY Shabbaton

April 8-11
Peoplehood Shabbaton and Conference

April 22-30
(We're closed 4/21 and 4/29)

May 1
Plenum Meeting

Living Jewish Learning (blog)

RENA (website)

CEDAR (website)

The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities' Marketing Resource Kit (pdf)

Be an Ally to Muslim Americans (pdf)

Look Into My Eyes: Coming Face to Face With Disability (mini course)

Reconstructionist Press (website)
What You Need to Know:

Affiliation Renewal for 2016-2017

We have recently mailed next year's Affiliation Benefits Package to congregational presidents and executive directors. 

In a letter to congregational leaders, RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities President Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., and Chair of the Board of Governors David Roberts write:

"In the words of The Forward this year, 'The Reconstructionist movement has had an outsized effect on American Jewry, often embracing progressive stands years or decades before the more established denominations followed along.' We are small yet mighty, and we continue to blaze new paths of inclusion, ritual, social justice, and congregational structure within our communities, at our rabbinical college, and to the Jewish world at large. We forge new paths that create a dynamic Jewish future."

To read more of their message and to view the entire Affiliation Benefits Package, you can download a copy here.

New Ways to Finance Our Movement

Plenum representatives and participants just received an email announcing the next meeting date. A portion of the meeting will explore new ways to finance the movement. The attached document–also linked below–considers dues and membership and lays a foundation for this discussion. We encourage you to download the attachment, to discuss it with your plenum representatives or share and study it with your community’s leaders.

(click here to download the document)

If you have questions or comments, contact Alan Halpern at
Introducing Reconstructionist Learning Networks

We can find templates for lesson plans online. We can search for advice on running an efficient committee meeting. And thanks to the Internet, we have access to tactical information to help us run our communities.

But how do we teach Reconstructionist thought in our Hebrew schools? What are the challenges of small Reconstructionist synagogues, and how can these communities overcome them? How do we keep our teenagers engaged with Judaism after their bar/bat mitzvah? What messaging strategies would help market Reconstructionist communities?

How do we answer the questions that can’t be Googled?

Under the direction of Cyd Weissman, director of Reconstructionist Learning Networks, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities is looking to help community leaders network in small groups with other leaders from across the country to explore answers to questions that cannot be Googled.

This winter, we piloted a handful of these networks: Reconstructionist rabbis working at JCCs, education professionals looking at Reconstructionist design principles, and leaders of small congregations. With a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, we also launched a network with education directors about Reconstructionist approaches to the new PJ Goes to School Program, which expands the popular pre-school PJ Books program to serve school-age children. Reconstructionist congregations are helping the Foundation pilot this program. Using WebEx, participants have been able to meet face to face across distance and time zones and have already reported feeling more connected.

“We’re really redefining what it means to be a community,” says Weissman. She plans to launch more networks later this year to the wider Reconstructionist public.

For more information about the Reconstructionist Learning Networks, contact Cyd Weissman at

Compassion Fatigue: What It Is
and How to Prevent It

We think our rabbis and spiritual leaders are superheroes. Inspired to serve, it's easy to mistake their passion to help others with an endless supply of time, energy and spiritual resources.

Of course, we all know that our religious leaders are as human as the rest of us. We know that engrossing ourselves in work for long periods of time will leave us exhausted and spiritually drained, even if it involves a job we love.

A recent study co-authored by David Tabak, immediate past president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, IL, deconstructed the condition of “Compassion Fatigue among rabbis. “Compassion fatigue,” the authors write, “is the result of expending spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical energy on others without sufficient replenishment of that energy.” The study is based on surveys of 61 Reconstructionist and Conservative rabbis, and 31 congregational presidents.

It probably wouldn't surprise anyone that 63 percent of rabbis reported experiencing compassion fatigue. What’s interesting though, is that only 21 percent of congregational presidents surveyed observed such fatigue in their rabbis. That’s an important mismatch. In fact, 43 percent of rabbis felt their board provided them with the necessary support to avoid burnout, while 79 percent of congregational presidents felt their board provided that support to their rabbis.

It’s likely that every spiritual leader will experience “Compassion Fatigue at some point in their career. So how can community leaders help their clergy avoid burn out?
  1. Acknowledge the toll that caring for others can take on a rabbi or congregational leader.
    Check in with a simple “how are you?” Communicate the duties that can be reasonably expected from the rabbi.   
  2. Develop systems to manage the rabbi’s energy expenditures.
    This could be additional administrative support, a new division of duties among other clergy and lay people, or other solutions. Make a plan to help divide the duties of caring for the community.
  3. Create an energy replenishment plan.
    Clergy and congregational leaders can work together to make sure the energy spent in service of the community is replenished. Develop a formula together that allows your spiritual leaders to recharge.

    “Understand that I am like a well,” one rabbi responded. "People come to me for their spiritual and emotional needs to be met. I need to be filled up emotionally as well.”
Want to learn more? Read the entire report and action plan.
News From Reconstructionist Communities
How to Reach Us:

Alan Halpern, VP for Community; 215.576.0800, ext. 150
Tresa GrauerDirector of Affiliate Support; 215.576.0800, ext. 144
Cyd WeissmanDirector of the Reconstructionist Learning Networks; 215.576.0800, ext. 257
Rabbi Joel AlpertDirector of Rabbinic Placement; 215.576.0800, ext. 304
Jackie LandEducation and Program Specialist; 302.500.0863

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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