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Union for Reform Judaism fires 30 employees

March 29, 2012 | 1:21 pm

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) laid off about 30 employees as part of a general restructuring of the organization.

The reorganization is part of a series of changes being ushered in by the new president of the URJ, Rabbi Richard Jacobs, who took over at the beginning of January. The layoffs were announced March 26.

“We’re trying to organize in a way that’s going to allow us to move forward and advance Rabbi Jacobs’ priorities and relate to congregations in more ways than we’ve been able to in the past,” said Mark Pelavin, a senior adviser to Jacobs. “What’s different is we’re focusing on Rabbi Jacobs’ priorities: youth engagement, this notion of working outside the walls of the congregation, and trying to find multiple ways of relating to congregations.”

The URJ’s overall budget will stay about the same, but many full-time employees will be replaced by part-time employees and outside consultants, Pelavin said. The net change in full-time equivalent employees will be a drop of about seven or eight positions, according to Pelavin. Overall, the URJ has approximately 370 employees, mostly in New York.

Among the changes planned are refocusing staff who work outside New York on convening congregations and helping them build relationships with each other; building a “URJ knowledge network” that will collect and organize information in the URJ system; building up a “faculty of thought leaders,” including “congregational consultants,” who will serve as resources for Reform shuls; and establishing “communities of practice” in which the URJ will work closely with congregations focused on specific areas such as the youth initiative campaign.

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