ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Conservative area synagogues have a new voice to help lead to the future — Lisa Harris Glass, who left a post with the movement’s new umbrella organization to take a job dedicated to Bergen County.
Lisa Harris Glass
Glass, who had been director of the Mid-Atlantic district of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, is working out of Paramus,
directing a synagogue renewal project.
Under the Synagogue Leadership Initiative — a project of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, in partnership with the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation — she will help synagogues in Bergen County with strategic planning.
Two months ago, Glass wrote to member synagogues about the choices they face amid financial belt-tightening.
“Last year many synagogues gave no raises to non-contract staff and even asked contractual staff to forego increases they were contractually entitled to,” she said. “This year many are contemplating a similar situation for non-contract staff again. While every employee should be grateful to have a job in this economy, we must also keep in mind that staff morale is a real issue that effects productivity.
“If you cannot give money this year, consider giving things that cost the synagogue little or nothing to give. For instance, perhaps you could offer an additional week of vacation in lieu of an increase,” Glass wrote. “You could also offer free high holiday tickets, synagogue membership, and building usage for little or no impact on your bottom line.
“After all, expenses have gone up for your staff. They are paying more for health insurance, property taxes and grocery bills. As their incomes have stagnated their ability to afford what they need has narrowed. I encourage you to get creative so your staff will know that they are valued by your community even when you cannot show them in the form of money.”
Glass said her decision to move had little to do with USCJ and more about the opportunity provided by working with SLI.
“This was an opportunity to work pan-denominationally in a smaller geographic area. That’s an exciting opportunity for me to be impactful and see the impact,” she told New Jersey Jewish News
A section of “ Faith & Fate ” examines the origins of Conservative Judaism.
Glass was appointed director of the Mid-Atlantic district when it was formed in January as a result of a merger of the USCJ’s New York and Philadelphia offices — which itself was part of a national streamlining that reduced the number of regional offices from 15 to six.
The merger nearly doubled the number of synagogues under Glass’ aegis.
Among the critics of the process was Rabbi Alan Silverstein of Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell and a worldwide Conservative movement leader. He is part of the HaYom Coalition, an effort by more than 25 Conservative congregations that began last winter to push for dialogue with the organization, saying it needed to be more responsive to the needs of its dues-payers. The coalition demanded that USCJ establish a strategic planning commission that would include members of HaYom.
Silverstein characterized the new changes as budgetary necessities rather than strategic changes that are part of a larger vision.
However, USCJ officials said the moves would answer member congregation demands for improved access to “resources, staff, and services,” which include helping coordinate rabbi searches, advising synagogues on governance, and in general connecting individual synagogues with the wider movement.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Harris said at the time. She said the changes would make the regional office “more nimble and able to react more quickly.”
Now, she says, she has an “incredible opportunity“ to make a positive difference where one is needed.
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