Meet the first woman to head a rabbinical group

I have a story in today’s Journal News/LoHud about Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, a resident of the City of White Plains who on Wednesday will become executive vice president — the boss — of the Rabbinical Assembly.

The RA represents 1,600 Conservative rabbis around the world (1,200 or so in the U.S.).

She is believed to be the first woman to serve as chief executive of a rabbinical group.

Schonfeld is very bright, has a tremendous amount of energy and is brimming with ideas. And it’s a good thing. She gets the top job with the RA at a time when Conservative Judaism is antsy and not quite focused.

She will be an interesting figure to watch, I think, and will make her presence felt.

In an interesting quirk, she replaces the retiring Rabbi Joel Meyers, also of White Plains. Both Schonfeld and Meyers are members of Temple Israel Center of White Plains, one of the best-known Conservative congregations around.

Leadership of Conservative Judaism continues to change

Much has been written in recent years (including by me) about the challenges facing Conservative Judaism — the “moderate” Jewish movement that seeks to reconcile tradition with the modern world.

It’s no easy task in an increasingly partisan culture, where most religious groups are identified as being with the right or left.

The incoming leader of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, an organization that represents Conservative synagogues, has a lot of work to do.

“I wanted this job because I think we are at a critical moment in the life of the movement and because the synagogue is the locus of Jewish life in the United States,” Rabbi Steven Wernick told the Jewish Week.

He’ll soon by taking over for Rabbi Jerome Epstein of New Rochelle, who has led the USCJ for 23 years.

This is a real period of change for the leadership of Conservative Judaism.

In 2007, Arnold Eisen took over as chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, the intellectual center of the Conservative movement. He replaced the long-serving Rabbi Ismar Schorsch.

And in a few months, Rabbi Joel Meyers of White Plains is retiring after two decades as executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative rabbis. He’ll be replaced by another White Plains-based rabbi, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld.

I hope to write something about Schonfeld before she takes over this summer.