For a number of weeks, we have heard rumors that the various bodies of the Reconstructionist movement would be joining forces to become one entity. Some folks will blame it on economic pressure. Others will suggest that it makes sense—and it makes no sense for the various arms of any movement to be separate. So the merger of sorts was recently voted upon and now it is official. And while the Reform movement historically boasted of its strength coming from three strong separate and independent arms (URJ-the laity; CCAR-the rabbis; and HUC-JIR-the academic center), there is a movement in the works to bring these organizations together under one roof in New York, ostensibly to save on overhead and expenses. No news from the Conservative front on this issue, although we have seen in the Conservative movement’s new strategic plan that any institution can join the USCJ (no need to be a Conservative synagogue any longer to do so.)
As an organization that is grappling with what the Jewish community will look like in the future—(That is what our upcoming conference is all about. Check out www.Judaism 2030.org for details and registration.)—it is important to try to understand what the decision of the Reconstructionists really represents on the wider landscape of the North American Jewish community.
It seems to me that as the distinctions between movements become less of a concern for those on the outside of the organized Jewish community (and frankly, for many on the inside, as well), the organizations within those movements are working harder to get their distinct message out. And the math looks simple. If we take two organizations and bring them together, the unified voice gets stronger.
Whether it is the Reconstructionist movement or any other, we have to do more than just escalating the intensity of the message. We have to make sure that the message resonates with those whom we seek to engage. And we have to make sure that the institutions that represent a particular ideology are welcoming to those who seek to participate in it.