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Recon Groups Draw a Bit Closer to a Merger

November 18, 2010 By:
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<div id="articlecontent"><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">The Jenkintown-based Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the movement&#39;s congregational arm has moved one step closer to merging with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote. </span> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">Proponents have said that a unified group could better serve synagogues and promote awareness of a distinct brand of Judaism. And the hope is that a restructuring would cut costs. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">At the JRF national convention last week in Newport Beach, Calif., representatives of congregations from across the country overwhelmingly approved the merger talks. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">According to JRF president Robert Barkin, the two sides have until April to hammer out details and come up with a formal merger document, which Reconstructionist congregations would then adopt or reject. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">RRC president Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz lauded the vote. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">The movement&#39;s other major arm, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, would not be part of the new organization. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">According to the 2009 &quot;Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia,&quot; 3 percent of the region&#39;s Jews identify as Reconstructionist. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">These efforts at a merger come on the heels of major overhauls within the Reform and Conservative movements aimed at cutting costs and more efficiently serving congregations. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">It&#39;s been a particularly turbulent time at JRF, which has experienced layoffs and staff turnover within the past two years. Executive vice president Carl Sheingold, JRF&#39;s top professional, left his post in August, several months before his contract was set to expire. Barkin, the lay leader, has taken over on an interim basis. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">And the college entered this year with a projected $450,000 budget deficit, though officials downplayed its seriousness. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">Janet Karp, president of Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation in Fort Washington, said her board backed the measure. She stated that the two organizations have little choice but to merge if they want to survive. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">More than anything, what she wants to see from a stronger organization is an increased effort to spread awareness of the Reconstructionist brand. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">While there are no immediate plans to change the movement&#39;s label, there needs to be a better understanding of the ideology and history, if Jews are going to seek out Reconstructionist congregations, she said. </span></p> <p><span id="mainContent_lblArticleHtml">&quot;If JRF could meet that need and accomplish that goal,&quot; said Karp, &quot;they would be far ahead of where were they are now.&quot;</span></p> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p>

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