Over the past year, there have been lots of signs pointing towards a much-needed restructuring of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the organization linking Conservative synagogues in North America. The movement announced the first wave of these changes on Friday. Taking a page from the Reform Movement’s playbook, regions are being replaced with much larger “districts,” and offices are being closed in favor of telecommuting. Word on the street is that while these changes will affect the structure of the adult regions, the USY regions will remain as is for at least a couple of years.
Speaking of USY, the Youth Department got its own restructure, with the formation of a Youth and Young Adult Services department, to be headed by Rich Moline. (Okay, maybe it’s not fair to link to his blog, which only has one post, but it’s certainly an interesting one post to have in light of what’s going on. You might know Rich better as the director of Koach, USCJ’s college outreach program.)
This department will also house Kesharim. Quoting from the USCJ memo announcing these changes:
Kesharim will grow from being a committee that gives grants to new minyanim to offer more resources to people in their 20s and 30s and to new and emergent congregations. Richard Moline, now Koach’s director, will become the director of the new Youth and Young Adult Services department and within the new department Jules Gutin will be associate director for informal youth activities and Rabbi Elyse Winick will be associate director of Koach. Kesharim will be run by six assistant district directors, one in each to-be-formed district, and Mr. Moline will supervise and support them.
With this new structure we will be able to provide Conservative Jewish experiences to our children as they grow to be young adults, so that by the time they have families of their own their understanding of Conservative Judaism and their identity as Conservative Jews will be integral to their understanding of themselves. That is how this movement will grow, through the challenges and engagement of our children and their children.
I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll use small words and a bold font.
We are not children. Please do not treat young adults in their 20s and 30s like children.
Really, I’m at a loss to say much more than this. If the movement is losing members between the time individuals complete USY and the time they have their first child, the answer is not to extend the USY experience right up to the mid-life crisis.
Maybe I’m wrong, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised that one department will be able to offer excellent services to middle-school kids through middle-aged adults. But I’ve been intimately involved with the Movement – and these departments in particular – for about two decades, and nothing I’ve seen encourages me to think differently.