Update on USCJ/RA Collaboration

July - December 2020
Rabbi Stewart Vogel (RA) and Ned Gladstein (USCJ) 


In the spring of 2020, USCJ and the RA announced the beginning of a collaboration. This past July, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal began his new role as Chief Executive Officer of both the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

While remaining two separate entities, this collaboration has three goals: 

  • To continue to implement the Our RA Vision Plan (the RA's 2020 Annual Report shows our continued progress)
  • To continue to implement the USCJ Roadmap, and
  • To strengthen the Conservative/Masorti movement by rethinking our organizations and work, and how we can be more effective in bringing our ever-relevant Torah to more people in more places in more ways.  
  • To achieve together what neither organization can achieve on its own.

About the Joint Steering Committee

Our collaboration is defined by a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in the spring of 2020. It established a Joint Steering Committee (JSC) with members from each organization's governing bodies and community thought leaders to oversee the partnership. 

  • The JSC began meeting in July of 2020, and continues to meet monthly. Its 12 members plus staff have gotten to know one another, have developed a trusting relationship, and have developed priorities for our joint work.
  • Among its most important decisions over the past few months was to prioritize impact over structural change. We will spend more time exploring opportunities for joint work for the two organizations to expand our reach and impact.  
  • We will defer exploration of a formal merger for now, but will use an alignment model in terms of budget and staff to get that work accomplished. We will not explore a formal merger at this time.


Focus on Impact: Expanding our Reach

Over the past six months we have been jointly experimenting with programs that expand the reach of the Conservative movement.

Some key programs included:

  • Pesah virtual seder involved 26 rabbis from the U.S., Israel, Canada, and Europe and wav viewed over 8,000 times. 
  • Shavuot series features 31 presenters teaching live from coast to coast and 14 pre-recorded teachers. The live tikkun was viewed 11,000 times and the pre-recorded videos over 3,000 times. 
  • Selihot programming 50 presenters from US, Canada, and Israel and had over 24,000 views. 
  • Scholarstream 135 sponsoring congregations and over 1,500 participants across 8 sessions taught by faculty of both JTS and Ziegler.

Additionally, Rabbi Lori Koffman has been engaged as a consultant to be Director of Engagement and Innovation. For the next six months she will be doing research and developing prototypes that will:

  • Enhance the work of our synagogues by making content available both in partnership with our congregations and directly to individuals.
  • Develop and assess models of virtual content sharing among congregations -- local networks, continent-wide networks, or partnered directly with USCJ.
  • Reach individuals not currently associated with or under-represented in our synagogues or movement through a variety of engagement models. These may be both alumni of various movement programs (USY, Nativ, Ramah) or those open to our movement’s approach to Jewish life but who have not been engaged by our existing program based model. We’ve discussed people of color, LGBTQ+ identified individuals, college students, post-college pre-family young adults, social activists.
  • Identify partners for creation of content, growing distribution, engaging expertise, and developing funding. 


Focus on Impact: Committee Work

Some committees have already had joint representation: Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (RA), Joint Placement Commission (RA), Joint Retirement Board (Movement).

In the past six months the following other committees have started to integrate:

  • The Social Justice Commission (RA) has a USY SATO VP serving on it, and seeks a USCJ representative to serve as well
  • USCJ President Ned Gladstein has attended meetings of the RA Executive Council
  • RA President Rabbi Stewart Vogel serves on the USCJ Board of Directors and has been attending its meetings.
  • Movement-Wide Scenario Planning was a joint committee formed to decide and develop a strategy for the next several months. It was jointly led by staff of USCJ and RA and had representatives of both organizations as members, along with other movement organizations.
  • High Holiday Task Force was a movement wide committee led by USCJ staff members and attended by RA staff as well as staff and lay leaders from other arms of the movement. It was key in developing joint programming and resources for synagogues over the high holiday period. It is currently still meeting to prepare for Purim, Passover, and High Holidays 5782. 
  • Our Budget Committees will coordinate closely as each organization prepares a budget for Fiscal Year 2022.

We are continuing to look for other opportunities for deepening relationships through committee work. 

Structure: Integrating Staff

While we have decided to focus on impact rather than structure, we anticipate a plan to integrate some back office functions such as finance and marketing/communications, to be implemented in July of 2021. The goal is to strengthen the capabilities of each organization with our existing staffs.

Achieving Our Goals

We have come a long way in our first few months of collaboration, and are excited as we develop additional projects and begin to align the work, staff roles, and budgets of our organizations. 

Thank you to the members of the Joint Steering Committee, our boards and lay leaders, and the staff of both organizations for helping us move this work forward.


Ned & Stewart