Two Letters from Phil Scheim and Julie Schonfeld

Dear Colleagues, 

Our CEO, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, has informed us of her decision not to seek renewal of her contract, and to end her professional relationship with the Rabbinical Assembly effective June 30, 2019, to be preceded by a six-month sabbatical period, beginning January 1, 2019. 

We are grateful to Rabbi Julie Schonfeld for her 17 years of service to the RA, including nine years as our Executive Vice President/CEO. Julie's leadership has been recognized world-wide in her advocacy for Masorti values and concerns, and our Assembly has been strengthened through her efforts and achievements. We wish Julie continued achievement and derekh tzelahah, as she explores new opportunities, and know that her voice, her wisdom and her dedication will continue to energize, uplift and inspire the Jewish world and society at large.

We are blessed with a very capable and dedicated professional staff who will enable the continuation of our  essential work at this time of transition. During this interim period we may engage additional professional assistance to ensure the smooth functioning of the RA. A committee will be established to determine our staffing needs and to begin the search process for our new CEO. Our decisions will be guided by our strategic plan, which provides a clear vision of our members' expectations of the RA, and articulates our need to provide maximal support to our membership and leadership to our Conservative/Masorti communities  and beyond. As our transition plans evolve, be assured that we will keep you, our membership, fully informed.

In a week, we turn to the Haggadah of Pesah. As our Haggadah, as the history of our RA continues to unfold, we will cherish the many pages detailing Julie's significant contributions to our growth and to our strength, as we wish her, her family, and all of our RA a Hag Kasher v'Sameah.

Philip Scheim, President

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you with both a sense of excitement and a bit of wistfulness to share that I will be stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of the Rabbinical Assembly on June 30, 2019. I will begin my planned sabbatical this coming January 1, 2019, and at the end of that sabbatical will complete my active duties and assume the title of CEO Emeritus.

Serving the Rabbinical Assembly as its executive has been a great privilege and pleasure, and yet I find myself at a moment in my career where there are new challenges I want to pursue and this is the time to do so. As such, I have informed the RA that I will not renew my contract and that we should begin planning for the transition. 

As I look back on my time leading the RA, the most satisfying work, and that which I will longest remember and treasure, was the opportunity to work intensively with rabbis and institutions in times of need, to help them see many steps down the road and make decisions not for the moment, but for what may lay ahead or around the corner. For me, the deepest satisfaction of the rabbinate lies in the privilege that rabbis enjoy of being present with people at those intense moments, whether joyous or challenging, when the window opens between the mundane and the holy. I began my career in a congregation, but my rabbinate, all but four years of which has been at the RA, has really been about being present for rabbis and institutions at these critical moments. 

I feel extremely fortunate that, because the Rabbinical Assembly has such a small staff, but sits at a crossroads of so many sectors, that my tenure here gave me the opportunity to learn and to lead in so many different arenas. I had the opportunity to work at high levels of public life, with governments and NGOs, dealing with matters of complex negotiation and even more complex communications. Concerned for the RA's financial future, I led our staff to develop our publications to their most effective and successful level, garnering the attention of the religious, literary, and business sectors. My role in bringing the Lev Shalem series to fruition will always be a highlight of my career and my life. Throughout all of my years at the RA, every day brought new and fascinating challenges in managing the many complex issues that face every organization. 

There is much wisdom and value in the community's skepticism of the very long tenures of Jewish communal leaders. While some stability is good in light of the complexity of Jewish organizations, Conservative Judaism's founding and fundamental lesson is that in order to thrive, our community and its institutions must repeatedly reinvent themselves. The Rabbinical Assembly is a wonderful and important organization that can effectively support rabbis at all stages of our careers. I leave our organization more deeply convinced than ever of its value.   

I want to thank our hardworking staff at the RA for their tireless work on behalf of Conservative Judaism. And to my husband Aytan - to whom I was married less than a year when I came to the RA - and our two children, my work is inspired by you every day.  

The strength of the Rabbinical Assembly lies in the unswerving commitment of each of you, the RA's members, to our rabbinic calling. I pray that each of you will find blessing and strength on your journey and I look forward to our continued friendship in years to come.


Julie Schonfeld, Chief Executive Officer