A New Year, A New Vision
by Rita L. Wertlieb
As we approach
Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur, described
by the rabbis as the Days
of Awe, we take time to
pause and reflect on our
lives over the past year. What were we able to
accomplish, both personally and as Jews?
What did we hope for that did not materialize?
What more could we have done to make
our goals into reality? In other words, we take
stock of ourselves, hoping to make the new
year better than the last.
Women's League for Conservative
Judaism has done just that by putting enormous
effort into addressing how we can
improve what we offer our sisterhoods and
members. Although we have maintained
the same mission since we were established
almost 100 years ago, that does not mean
that we have not taken periodic stock of ourselves
and initiated change when necessary.
Change is inevitable and, in fact, has been
integral to our history. In our early years,
when our membership was comprised of
mostly uneducated immigrants or first generation
Americans, meetings were conducted
in Yiddish. Today, not only is the language
English (or Hebrew or French or Spanish,
depending on where you are) the de rigueur
hats and gloves have been exchanged for kippot,
tallitot and tefillin. We have become
enlightened, educated and liturgically skilled
women who contribute to our synagogues
and communities alike. Even our name has
changed, more than once.
It wasn't long ago that women did not
count in a minyan, read Torah, or ascend
the bimah for any reason. Look at us now!
In most Conservative synagogues, women
are not only counted in the minyan, but
in many cases they lead it. Our members
ascend the bimah regularly as shlichot tzibbur
(prayer leaders), baalot kriah (Torah
readers) and gabbaiot (Torah service coordinators).
Since the early 1990s and the
establishment of our elite Kolot Bik'dushah
Society, nearly one thousand of our members
have acquired these significant liturgical
Although change can be intimidating, we
have overcome our trepidations and accepted
the challenges before us. Change has always strengthened us, as individuals and as an
organization, but it will never undermine
our identity as Conservative Jewish women.
As women we have always understood the
power, the wisdom and the energy that come
from sisterhood. Women have always
bonded together to learn, instruct, nurture,
and give and/or receive support. As Jewish
women, we remain committed to a history,
culture and religious tradition reflecting
back thousands of years to our matriarchs.
And as Conservative Jewish women, we are
members of the movement whose leaders
always have maintained that Jewish religious tradition should be tempered by contemporary
And so, as the women of Women's League
for Conservative Judaism, we are ready to
embrace change once again. Our new strategic
plan will move us forward with a vision
that will provide value to all Conservative
Jewish women, enticing them to become
affiliated with the many thousands of
women who already identify with our organization.
We will introduce changes in our
structure that will open the doors for new
leadership and multiple ports of entry to
involve members and potential members,
whether through sisterhoods or through
individual memberships. We will offer all
those who join us a compelling statement
of who we are and where we're going. Yet,
despite any strategic changes, Women's League is committed to the observance of
Jewish rituals and traditions, which are as
fulfilling and relevant for today's women
as they were to generations past.
The identity of Women's League
continues intact, as we remain what we
always have been: the network of Conservative
Jewish women. And like those who
went before us, we keep one foot planted
firmly in tradition while moving the other
forward to a more rewarding future.
Nearly a year of study and deliberation
has resulted in a strategic plan that will be
unveiled at the Women's League biennial
convention, which will be held December
2-5, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Be part
of the excitement and join us in Vegas to
help implement the changes that will maintain
our mission and vision while moving
forward. When change is embraced and
intentional, it means progress.
Le'shana tova umetukah.
Rita L. Wertlieb is the international president of Women's League for Conservative Judaism.