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United Synagogue is Turning 100

Help Us Chart the Course for the Next Decades

by Richard Skolnick

Have you heard? United Synagogue is turning 100. Needless to say, we’re planning a major celebration, which you can read all about on page 22. But more than a celebration, the event in Baltimore on October 11–15, 2013, will help us chart the course for the next decades of USCJ and Conservative Judaism. By “us,” I don’t mean just we at United Synagogue, I mean thought leaders, rabbis, synagogue leaders, scholars, and innovators of all stripes – everyone, in short, who cares about strengthening the authentic, living Judaism that Solomon Schechter and his colleagues envisioned when they created the then United Synagogue of America in 1913.

The Baltimore gathering will look at the extraordinary impact of Conservative/Masorti Judaism over the last 100 years and will honor the people and kehillot who have been integral to the history of United Synagogue. There will be a joyous Shabbaton, led by some of our most creative, inspiring ba’alei tefillah and musical interpreters. The Shabbaton will be a chance for contemplation, celebration and connection.

In plenaries and workshops we will join renowned thought leaders and innovators in exploring what Jewish identity, synagogues and Conservative Judaism will look like in the next 10, 20 and 30 years. What changes must we make to create the future we envision? How will we develop the leaders we need? How do we strengthen our kehillot – our sacred communities – so they remain relevant, vibrant centers of Jewish life? The answers we formulate will be visionary and practical, inspiring and down-toearth.

Clearly, approaches that worked for our parents and grandparents need to be rethought and reimagined for the new century. But what we do next requires the active participation of Conservative Jews everywhere – and of everyone who cares about the vital Jewish center.

That’s where you come in. As we launch the next 100 years of United Synagogue, we need you to help us shape the future. Come to the Centennial in Baltimore. Join the conversation we’ll be having online, in person and in print over the next months. Be part of the work we’re doing to strengthen our synagogues and communities so they can continue to enrich the lives of Jews and be a force for good in the world around us. To share your thoughts, go to our Centennial Facebook page at facebook.com/USCJ100 and check out our web site at www.uscj100.org.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Margo Gold and Jack Finkelstein, Centennial co-chairs and USCJ board members, for the incredible time and dedication they are giving to planning this event. Margo and Jack are devoted to making the Centennial Celebration a time of learning and inspiration, a unique experience that can only be appreciated when we gather together. I am truly grateful to them for their hard work.

Finally, I’d like to wish all of you and your families a happy Chanukkah filled with light and joy.

Richard Skolnik is the international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

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