Central Reform should consider URJ’s benefits


I am deeply disturbed by the thought that Central Reform Congregation might possibly remove itself from membership in the Union for Reform Judaism. The URJ was founded by Rabbi Wise in 1873 closely followed by the Hebrew Union College in 1875. For 133 years HUC has produced the very best rabbis and cantors in the Jewish religion. These rabbis have led the Reform Movement to be the largest single group of affiliated Jews in the United States.

I will grant that the CRC has the right to choose to be non-affiliated but I implore this great religious institution to reconsider. In the year 2003-2004 the HUC, where we get our rabbis from, received 44% percent of the URJ dues synagogues pay to the union. In 2004, there were approximately 100 positions for Reform rabbis open in the 900 congregations in the Union, only about 20 rabbis graduated. We need to encourage our young to become rabbis so great congregations like CRC can have great leadership like Rabbi Susan Talve.

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Where would CRC be without Rabbi Talve, whose wisdom, along with the lay leadership, led to creation of this congregation? CRC is the leader in the St. Louis community in tikkun olam.

My own grandfather, Rabbi Ferdinand M. Isserman, graduated from HUC in 1919 and became senior rabbi of Temple Israel in 1929.

Who is to say that the foundation he was given at HUC, did not make him the great rabbi he was. He was active in HUC development committees, through the 1950s. He felt the union was the only way we as Reform Jews can speak with one voice. Only with unity of purpose and the strength of over 900 congregations speaking with one voice can we make a difference. Just last weekend, at Plaza Frontenac, 15 Nazi protesters stood with anti-Jewish posters at the Jewish Film Festival.

In this era, the police kept a close watch on them prevent violence. Just a few years ago, in Atlanta, Leo Frank was hung by a lynch mob for being Jewish.

Unity makes our institutions root out these social ills and spotlight them. While the local papers ignored this demonstration, the Jewish Light made it front page news. Unity makes Christian churches seek out CRC, as a representative organization, as a beacon in the Jewish community and one to dialogue with and create with. Unity, through our dues to URJ, gives us great rabbis, like Rabbi Talve, Rabbi Mark Shook, and Rabbi Isserman. I respect if this is your decision CRC, but you are not an island, you are a leader. Please stay with us and help make us better Jews.

Rick Isserman is a member of Congregation Temple Israel.