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Retreat sets agenda for merging advocacy arms
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Retreat sets agenda for merging advocacy arms

Representatives of the MetroWest, Central, and Northern NJ federations discuss the merger of their community relations arms at an August leadership retreat in Whippany.
Representatives of the MetroWest, Central, and Northern NJ federations discuss the merger of their community relations arms at an August leadership retreat in Whippany.

The regionalization of the community relations councils of three New Jersey Jewish federations — including United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ — officially began in August at a retreat for leaders at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany.

The merger, announced last spring, also involves the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.

The formation of the regional body resulted from staff reductions at the federations due to decreased funding and the need for cost containment. Joy Kurland, who has served as director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the UJA Federation of Northern NJ for the past 19 years, has been appointed regional CRC director.

At the retreat, more than 50 lay leaders and professionals from the three federations learned about the operations of each of the three CRCs.

“We are trying to identify the tremendous benefits that regionalization can yield without losing the quality or content of our programs and the energy created by our community activists,” said MetroWest Community Relations Committee chair David Lentz. “Merging and yet differentiating at the same time lies at the root of the task we are performing.

“First we need to get to know each other better, as well as the way we carry out our current tasks,” said Gordon F. Haas, Central federation JCRC cochair, “and then we can plan for the future, taking the best practices forward.”

“Merging is also an opportunity to unite behind a single voice representing a much larger and broader Jewish community,” said Lentz

Retreat participants broke into affinity groups to discuss potential collaborations. The Public Policy and Government Affairs group focused on advocacy training, plans for a gathering of government officials, and the establishment of a contact list of lay leaders for outreach to legislators in each federation’s district. The Israel and World Affairs and Intergroup Relations groups discussed ideas for evangelical outreach, cooperation on events in support of Israel, the Stop Iran Campaign, and the Hope for Peace presentation.

Plans are under way for the creation of a Task Force on Regionalization, comprising a total of 12-15 lay and professional leaders. “The plan is to have a governance structure implemented by next summer,” said Kurland. “We are working on both visioning and a strategic plan.”

In this initial year, each CRC will maintain current ongoing programs on a local level while pursuing regional efforts. The regional CRC will also cooperate with the New Jersey Association of Jewish Federations in the sponsorship of a Gubernatorial Candidates Forum and on other issues of concern to the Jewish community.

Other staff of the regional CRC include Melanie Roth Gorelick, UJC MetroWest CRC associate director; Sharon Rifkind, UJA NNJ JCRC associate director; Alice Blass, UJA NNJ JCRC volunteer project coordinator; Jane Gardner, UJC MetroWest CRC administrative assistant; and Natalya Taleysnik, UJA NNJ JCRC administrative assistant.

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