Women’s League for Conservative Judaism is embarking on a period of transformative change and innovation as it opens its biennial convention on December 2 in Las Vegas. Two of the items on the agenda that will impact the organization at its core are the passage of resolutions focusing on social action and public policy and the implementation of a radically new strategic plan.
Women’s League is at a very exciting crossroad, ready to improve the way we do things, provide new membership opportunities and build a track for new leadership. Here are some of the highlights of the new strategic plan.
Individual memberships will open a new port of entry so that all Conservative Jewish women can be involved, even if they choose not to join a sisterhood. Products and services will be designed for individual members as well as for sisterhood members. Efforts to support and help grow sisterhoods will include improved marketing tools. Intergenerational training will support individual and sisterhood members, as well.
Increasing the rotation of leaders is a top priority. Redefined volunteer opportunities will encourage women to pursue their interests; new skills will allow them to flourish in whatever capacity they choose. Playing a leadership role should be rewarding for all those who say yes to being a part of Women’s League.
Products and services will reflect the needs of all Conservative Jewish women. By disseminating new materials online, sisterhoods will have the tools necessary to keeping their groups fresh and their members engaged. A pilot program is already in place to bring new materials to the regions.
A communications plan to address women of every age includes the website (www.wlcj.org), with information, products and administrative tools. It is updated on a regular basis with interesting and relevant materials. An active Facebook presence has been added, as well as BaOlam, the world affairs blog.
The strategic implementation plan also includes changes on the international level. Convention delegates will be voting to move convention from every two to every three years. The professional and lay leaders will define different causes and issues that both individual and sisterhood members can embrace and work on together.
This implementation plan is the result of many hours of work by a committee that represents the entire membership. Focus groups, surveys and input from past and present leaders were essential to getting a broad perspective of what changes were necessary to make the organization vital and responsive.
These efforts will bring about a new network for all Conservative women, an organization that will evolve as its members’ needs and interests evolve.
It is an anticipated rite of convention that delegates discuss and vote on resolutions dealing with issues in our communities and the world at large. Women’s League relies on its body of resolutions when asked to take a position or to call for an action. In addition, the resolutions recommend specific actions for sisterhoods and their members. This year’s resolutions have been distributed to sisterhoods and are on the website (www.wlcj.org). We invite you to review them carefully and make your views known by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In a change of tradition, this year resolutions will be discussed briefly and voted on by ballot during the course of convention. The following introduces the goals of the 2012 resolutions.
The straightforward Support for Israel resolution underscores Women’s League’s commitment to Israel and resolves to work with the larger community to end efforts to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel. The resolution commends MERCAZ’s Israel Advocacy work and encourages MERCAZ membership.
Gender Equality in Public Secular Spaces addresses segregation on sidewalks, public buildings and public buses. It advocates for laws that forbid gender segregation and asks members of the government for support.
Equality of Treatment in Israeli Hotels, written by the Masorti movement and adopted by most Conservative movement organizations, asks that Israeli hotels treat all denominations equally and that Conservative/ Masorti groups patronize hotels that follow a non-discrimination policy. Some Israeli hotels have refused to let Masorti groups use their Torah scrolls or have asked for additional fees to bring in a Torah.
The resolution on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Jews discusses “Rituals and Documents of Marriage and Divorce for Same Sex Couples,” the 2012 appendix to the 2006 teshuvah by Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner that normalizes the communal status of gay and lesbian Jews. It updates previous resolutions and calls on sisterhoods to advocate against laws that discriminate against GLBT individuals.
According to Jewish tradition, it is our responsibility to feed the hungry. The resolution calls on sisterhoods to ask officials to insure hunger programs; to support Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger; to collect for food banks; and to take the Food Stamp Challenge and spend $31.50 for a week’s worth of food.
Hydrofracking is the extraction of natural gas from previously impermeable shale, a complex issue that has potential health consequences. The Women’s League resolution is based on resolutions passed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), of which Women’s League is a member, and the Rabbinical Assembly. It calls for laws requiring companies to disclose all materials used during fracking, for ongoing monitoring and for safeguards to protect the public health and the environment.
The resolution on women’s bodily autonomy presents the Conservative movement’s definition of when life begins and the status of the fetus. It discusses attempts on the Federal, state and local levels to define “personhood” as starting at conception. Women’s League is calling on members to study the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards’ teshuvot on the subject and to support access to the entire spectrum of reproductive health care, and to oppose personhood legislation.
Separation of Church and State
The resolution on separation of Church and State reinforces the legal requirements that a non-profit in the United States not intervene in elections and it discusses the different definition of Church and State issues in Canada.
All the women of the Conservative movement are invited to come to Convention 2012 and have their voices heard as we look forward to a new dawn for Women’s League and the entire movement! For information, or to register, go to www.wlcj.org.