URJ Biennial: Temple’s Amsler Offers Governance Guidance

URJ Biennial: Temple’s Amsler Offers Governance Guidance

David R. Cohen

David R. Cohen is the former Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He is originally from Marietta, GA and studied Journalism at the University of Tennessee.

How should congregations change their governance structure as their membership grows?

That was the question at the center of a Union for Reform Judaism Biennial workshop featuring The Temple’s president, Jonathan Amsler, as one of four panelists Thursday, Nov. 5.

The workshop focused on the different types of governance models large congregations can use to become more efficient and promote deeper engagement.

“Governance is always a problem in large congregations,” said Amsler, whose congregation is Atlanta’s largest. “We live in an ever-changing world, and it’s the one problem that all synagogues have had. How do you get a board that’s traditionally slow to be fast?”

Amsler was joined by on the panel by Connell Saltzman of Temple Emanuel in Denver, Kathy Weinman of Temple Israel in Boston and Greg Yawitz of Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis. The foursome discussed methods each has employed to make congregations more efficient.

Temple Emanuel implemented a faster board review process. Temple Israel, which has 1,400 member families, shrank its board from 100 members to 20.

Amsler said The Temple took all the committees that ran programs and turned them into self-governing groups.

“We now have more engaged board members so they actually have specific roles,” he said. “More importantly, we took all of our committees and put them into portfolios which manage themselves. It’s no longer pushing everything down. The groups operate by themselves.”

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