OU Executive Directors Conference in Baltimore, November 13-15

08 Nov 2011


The Executive Director used to be the forgotten person among the leadership of a synagogue. There always was the rabbi (and perhaps chazzan), known to all as the clergy; the president, chairman of the board and other lay leadership, also highly visible to the congregation; and the officers of the various components of the shul: sisterhood, education program, youth program, etc., known at least to their segments of the shul community.

Then there was the executive director — oh yes, the employee who calls the plumber when the pipes leak. If the executive director felt slighted or even somewhat invisible, it was quite understandable.

Not any more. Since 2008, the Karasick Synagogue Services Department | Congregation Support Network of the Orthodox Union has brought together executive directors from across North America in a conference to discuss issues of common interest; to fortify the range of skills that are necessary for the job; and to network with their peers at the conference and during the course of the year. The OU recognizes the executive directors as extremely important components of the synagogue community, who are charged with assuring that the other shul leaders can do their job without fear that the pipes will leak or the bills won’t be paid.

With a theme of Communication: Strengthening Communities, Strengthening Shuls, The Fourth Annual OU Executive Directors Conference will be held in Baltimore from Sunday, November 13-Tuesday, November 15 at Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, and Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation. Forty executive directors are expected to attend, representing communities from coast to coast, including Canada. The plenary sessions to be offered during the intensive three days indicate the range of responsibilities that executive directors are called on to handle and how wide their array of skills must be.

“The goal of this conference is to provide resources, tools and an opportunity for executive directors to reach out and to share their professional expertise. The Orthodox Union is a network that connects synagogues and their leadership across North America, and the Executive Directors Conference is an important means of achieving this goal,” said Conference Coordinator, Yehuda Friedman.

Those sessions include:

• The Director: Finding Power and Fulfillment in Your Position

• How to Navigate the Transitions of Lay and Professional Leadership

• Are You as Productive as You Can Be: Exploring 22 New Approaches

• Running Your Synagogue Like a Business: Communication and Fiscal Transparency

• The How-to’s that Every Fundraiser Must Know: How to Connect With the Unconnected; How to Expand My Donor Base

• Synagogue Software and OU Website Template Platform: Is My Website Communicating My Synagogue’s Mission? Are My Operations Streamlined with the Synagogue Software?

• Tools and Techniques in Collecting Synagogue Dues: A Roundtable Discussion

• Tools for Safeguarding Your Synagogue

One key session, on the Orthodox Union’s challenge grant program, in which $150,000 will be distributed to the winning congregations who have submitted replicable proposals to make Jewish education more affordable, will be led by Rabbi Judah Isaacs, OU Director of Community Engagement, who oversees the challenge grant program. (The grant recipients will be announced in early December.)

Other OU speakers will include Yehuda Friedman, who besides his role as Conference Coordinator is National Project Coordinator for OU Synagogue Services; and Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn of the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York and Director of the OU’s WINGS (We Invite New Growth Synagogues) Consulting Initiative.

The North American Federation system will be represented by William Daroff, Vice President of Public Policy of The Jewish Federations of North America; and Marc Terrill, President, THE ASSOCIATED, Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The ASSOCIATED will also provide its Director of Security, Major Keith Tiedemann, who will be joined by Major Evan M. Cohen, Executive Officer, Operations Bureau, Department of Homeland Security.

Executive Directors (and others) who will be leading or introducing sessions are Gary D. Simms, Kemp Mill Synagogue, MD; Reva Homnick, Young Israel of Hollywood, FL; Naomi Malakoff, United Orthodox Synagogue, Houston; Matthew Hocherman, Boca Raton Synagogue, FL; Brian Zimmerman, President, Congregation Adat Yeshurun, La Jolla, CA; Anne Goldberg, Congregation AABJ&D, West Orange, NJ; David Winter, Riverdale Jewish Center, NY; Adina Kirschner, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Teaneck, NJ; Gracie Rosenblum, Bnai Jacob Shaare Zion Congregation, Baltimore; David Fleischacker, Baron Hirsch Synagogue, Memphis; Allen Ishakis, Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills; Marvin Schenker, Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, NY; and Beth Cohen, Beth Israel Synagogue, Omaha.

Communities will be represented from 15 states and Canada at the conference. They are:

Atlanta, Baltimore, Beverly Hills, Boca Raton, Chevy Chase MD, Columbus OH, Dallas, Des Moines, Ft. Lauderdale, La Jolla CA, Lawrence NY, Los Angeles, Lower Meridian PA, Malden MA, Memphis, New York, Newton Centre MA, Norfolk, Omaha, Palm Beach, San Diego, Silver Spring MD, Teaneck NJ, Vancouver BC, Washington DC, West Orange NJ.

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