Thursday, June 23, 2011

[Shefa] USCJ Is Heading In The Wrong Direction

USCJ has just implemented a new round of lay offs, letting go long time, productive and loyal employees. Some were let go in a very gruff, unfeeling and un-Jewish manner. Some were successful USY leaders.

It now appears that USCJ's restructuring will create a more centralized USY that, in their opinion, will give more service to their members. Based on the way centralization is working since they went to 6 districts instead of 15 regions, this is likely to be disasterous - especially since USY is the only reason that many member congregations have maintained membership in USCJ while struggling and going deeper into red ink to pay their dues.

Are you aware that USCJ has now hired a chief operating officer? While this fact hasn't been hidden, neither has it been loudly trumpeted as a wonderful development. I will say that hiring the right talented business person as the COO is a good move, but rather than add a salary, that person should be the CEO. I believe that hiring a COO with a strong business background is an admission by USCJ that they need to change the structure of their leadership. Adding a COO is a redundancy - an extra, unnecessary, high salary to pay when they are laying off long time, faithful and productive employees.

Calling congregations kehillot won't make any difference. Consolidating and centralizing operations *will* make a big difference, albeit a negative one. Providing free services to minyanim will just take scarce resources away from paying membership and will not influence minyanim to join USCJ, which is the embodiment of why the minyanim exist in the first place. Offering a 5% discount for dues prepayment is not going to impress anyone. Most congregations can't come up with their whole dues commitment at one time and, even if they could, paying $19,000 in stead of $20,000 (5%) isn't going to make a difference in the feelings of a cash strapped congregation that believes it isn't getting a good return on its investment. USCJ just doesn't seem to be able to see the congregations through the kehillot.

In the last few years, the CT, Western MA region has lost about 10% of their congregations, the most recent being one of the larger synagogues in the region, just a couple of months ago. You can't replace a 500 family congregation with a 50 member, non paying kehillot. It's not an even trade.

USCJ's restructing has not been a change for the better. The lack of
transparency is as bad or worse than it was before. The service to the congregations has gone downhill. Membership in USCJ has further eroded. Long-time, good employees have been laid off. They listen to Hayom, which represents large congregations, but fail to lend an ear to the many smaller congregations.

It is time for congregations to demand a change, or quit USCJ. The current path isn't working – it is a road to the destruction of the movement.

Ira Fink
Beth Sholom B'nai Israel
Manchester, CT


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