Plenum Frequently Asked Questions | Reconstructing Judaism

Plenum Frequently Asked Questions

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An overview of basic purpose and composition of the plenum is available here. 

 

  1. What are the current governance structures in the Reconstructionist movement?
  2. What governance changes were implemented in the merger of JRF and RRC?
  3. How does the RRA function in relationship to the central organization, and how are rabbis involved in the processes and committees of that organization?
  4. When do plenum voting meetings occur?
  5. Does the plenum duplicate the Movement Advisory Committee (MAC)?
  6. Is the plenum the only forum for congregational voices?
  7. What about non-congregational voices in the movement?
  8. What is a sample agenda for a plenum meeting?
  9. Will the members of the plenum be able to communicate with one another between meetings?

     

What are the current governance structures in the Reconstructionist movement?

  1. Board of governors
  2. Plenum
  3. Movement Advisory Committee
  4. The Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation
  5. Affinity groups
  6. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

The board of governors of the restructured organization holds the ultimate responsibility for the Reconstructionist movement. The board reflects the full breadth of the movement and is charged with the responsibility of representing the interests, views, hopes and aspirations of:

  • Affiliated Reconstructionist congregations and havurot
  • Individual Reconstructionist Jews
  • Reconstructionist rabbis
  • The faculty, students and graduates of RRC
  • All other stakeholders in the movement

Since the Reconstructionist movement extends beyond the institution governed by the board, the board will consistently adopt an attitude of inclusive involvement and engagement with all constituencies.

The plenum is a mechanism for stakeholders in the Reconstructionist movement to exercise power in movement matters. Communities affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement are its primary constituency. However, the plenum may also provide or create opportunities—including voting powers—for engagement with other individuals and constituencies of the movement.

The Movement Advisory Committee provides counsel to the board of governors through proactive feedback and responses to various initiatives. The MAC is chaired by a member of the board of governors and comprised of congregational leaders and Reconstructionist rabbis. It is staffed by the RRA executive director.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation (JRCC) sponsors Camp JRF and other youth activities and is governed by its own board. JRCC’s board chair and executive director sit on the RRC board of governors.

Affinity groups consist of individuals across the Reconstructionist movement, united by professional or avocational interests, who have banded together to meet, collaborate, share resources and otherwise work to build up elements of Reconstructionist Judaism. These include RENA (educators), CEDAR (executive directors), and Harmoniya (musicians).

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) is an independent membership organization governed by its own board and comprised of Reconstructionist rabbis and rabbis of affiliated Reconstructionist congregations.

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What governance changes were implemented in the merger of JRF and RRC?

A new dues structure enables congregations to determine at what level they want to participate in the movement and its benefits.

The board of governors created a new committee, the Congregational Services Committee, whose chair also sits on the Executive Committee. Its goal is to ensure a strong voice for congregational concerns.

The board also created three commissions:

  1. Movement Growth and Financial Health
  2. Youth and Education
  3. Tikkun Olam

The volunteer leaders of both the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) and the Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation (JRCC) are now voting members of the board of governors of the central organization, serving on the Executive Committee. Their professional staff also serve as non-voting members of the board.

Rabbinical representation on the board of governors has been expanded and rabbis serve on all of the commissions.

The Movement Advisory Committee includes rabbis and lay leaders and is staffed by the executive director of the RRA.

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How does the RRA function in relationship to the central organization, and how are rabbis involved in the processes and committees of that organization?

From the beginning of the discussions between RRC and JRF in 2009, it was always understood that the RRA would remain an independent organization under its own governance and serving its own members. The leaders and members of the RRA felt that this autonomy would offer the best way for it to represent the diversity of its members and affirm and assert rabbinical leadership. The RRA remains committed to working cooperatively with the new movement structure.

Rabbis are directly involved in the new system in the following ways:

  • There are eight rabbinical representatives on the Movement Advisory Committee (MAC)
  • The executive director of the RRA staffs the MAC (and is supervised by the RRA board in this, as in other matters).
  • The volunteer president of the RRA is a voting ex officio member of the central organization board. Between four and six other rabbis serve as voting rabbinical governors on this board.
  • The RRA president and one of the rabbinical governors are members of the movement board’s Executive Committee. In addition, the professional executive director of the RRA is a non-voting, ex officio member of the board.
  • At least two rabbis serve on the Congregational Services Committee. At least one rabbi serves on the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee.
  • At least three rabbis are appointed to each of the Movement Growth and Financial Health, Youth and Education, and Tikkun Olam Commissions. A rabbi currently serves as chair of the Tikkun Olam Commission.
  • Congregational rabbis may be designated by their congregations to serve as authorized representatives to the plenum. (They already are ex officio non-voting members of the plenum.)
  • The RRA is included in certain deliberations on positions and policies of the Reconstructionist movement.
     

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When do plenum “voting meetings” occur?

The plenum meets in the fall (October or November) and spring (April or May) each year. Meetings are on Sundays at 2 PM Eastern, conducted by conference call. 

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Does the plenum duplicate the Movement Advisory Committee (MAC)?

The plenum primarily serves as a body for congregational discussion. The MAC is designed to be a forum for robust and meaningful engagement between rabbis and congregational leaders. The MAC is smaller and more nimble than the plenum, however it is elected by the plenum.

The plenum has the potential to expand its membership to include representation from the Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation and affinity groups such as RENA and Harmoniyah.

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Is the plenum the only forum for congregational voices?

There are multiple opportunities for congregational voices in movement governance. The Congregational Services Committee is a standing committee of the board of governors, and its chair (who is also the chair of the plenum) sits on the Executive Committee. The Movement Advisory Committee includes eight congregational leaders who will be elected by the plenum. Each of the three commissions — Movement Growth and Financial Health, Youth and Education, and Tikkun Olam — includes congregational representatives. Congregational leaders may also sit on the board of the Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation.

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What about non-congregational voices in the movement?

There are already three affinity groups associated with the Reconstructionist movement: the Reconstructionist Educators of North America (RENA); Harmoniyah; and the Congregational Executive Directors and Administrators in Reconstructionism (CEDAR). The Jewish landscape in North America is changing. The board of governors and the leadership of the movement are aware of these changes and will take steps to include other groups, as they emerge, in movement leadership.

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What is a sample agenda for a plenum meeting?

We aim to make a plenum gathering a vital site for engagement among congregational leaders. The Congregational Services  Some—though by no means all—of what will be covered includes:

  • Rules for conducting the plenum
  • Regular updates on movement priorities
  • Regular reports from the Congregational Services Committee and occasional reports from the commissions
  • Election of congregational representatives and chair for the Congregational Services Committee
  • Election of congregational representatives to the Movement Advisory Committee
  • Ratification of the board of governors slate
  • Votes on external positions, as recommended by the Tikkun Olam Commission
  • Votes on internal policies of the Reconstructionist movement
  • Items submitted by the membership
     

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Will the members of the plenum be able to communicate with one another between meetings?

That is the goal. There is a plenum listserv to which all plenum members are invited.

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