Creating Change: A Vision for RRC’s Future, our first-ever strategic plan, was ambitious in its scope and prescient in its perspective. In 2008, five years before the landmark Pew Research Center study A Portrait of Jewish Americans, the opening essay commented on the demographics of the Jewish community: “There is confusion and controversy about who ‘the Jewish community’ is. There is also burgeoning interest in the cultural, rather than religious, aspects of Judaism and a seemingly endless number of ways in which Jews feel comfortable expressing their individual values and interests.” Creating Change posed strategies to support our continued relevance; in addition to demographics, the key areas it focused on were technology; the Reconstructionist approach; and RRC’s image and influence, its material resources, its educational program, and its people.
Perhaps most important was our ability to change and excel in ways that we could not picture back in 2008. Relevance, after all, is a moving target. The plan called for a review of our rabbinical-education curriculum; rather than a straightforward evaluation, the project that emerged was aptly titled Reimagining Rabbinical Education, and its true potential is still unfolding. A short time later, RRC and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, our congregational arm, unified as one organization—rendering a new structure to serve the Reconstructionist constituency.
The plan set out four overarching goals. They are cited below, along with the most notable evidence that we achieved them in the course of five remarkable years.
GOAL: THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST RABBINICAL COLLECE WILL STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE
- A grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion led us to a new understanding of rabbinical formation.
- A grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation supported us in designing the new curriculum and piloting new educational offerings.
- The Reimagining Rabbinical Education (RRE) project initiated a complete redesign of our rabbinical-training program, keeping us in alignment with best practices in higher education.
- We established a new program in Social Justice Organizing that is unique among rabbinical schools.
- Our multifaith studies program grew more robust with our second and third major grants from the Henry Luce Foundation.
- Other significant achievements included: a strategic-enrollment plan and initiatives to support it, an updated Hebrew curriculum, more integrated Israel-year programming, and additional internship opportunities.
Administration and Governance
- We continued to hold each student’s yearly tuition steady; until graduation each is charged at the same rate that was in place when he or she entered the program.
- In a difficult economy, we maintained employee salaries and made cost-of-living adjustments when possible.
- We operated without debt.
- We adopted the Board Effect portal system for communication with our board of governors, helping to fulfill our charge to be systematic about the mandate, governance, supervision and assessment for all non-curricular activities.
- The board of governors received and acted on the recommendations of the Governance Committee to create a congregational plenum and to expand the composition of the Movement Advisory Committee.
- The board continued to refine the mandates and functioning of the Movement Growth and Financial Health, Youth and Education, and Tikkun Olam Commissions.
- We created a new dues model, and the board refined processes for setting dues and creating an institution-wide budget with appropriate input from constituencies.
- The new strategic plan we were developing received input from 18 different constituencies across the Reconstructionist movement.
- We added wireless Internet service and upgraded the IT infrastructure, giving employees the ability to access their computers remotely.
GOAL: RRC WILL SERVE AS A VITAL PROVIDER OF JEWISH THOUGHT AND RESOURCES
- The RRC Press published the following titles: Family and Sexual Ethics; Everyday Spirituality; Welcoming Children; Community, Gemilut Hesed and Tikkun Olam; and Making a Difference: Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.
- A Guide to Jewish Practice: Everyday Living, the first of a three-volume RRC Press series edited by Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award.
- We improved and re-launched the popular Jewish-ritual website Ritualwell.org.
- We created a new Reconstructionist resource site, JewishRecon.org.
GOAL: RRC WILL RAISE THE IMAGE AND INFLUENCE OF RECONSTRUCTIONIST JUDAISM AND WILL SUPPORT THE GROWTH OF THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST CONSTITUENCY
- We expanded our visibility by significantly increasing the volume and reach of our videos, social media and email communications; we introduced content and communication streams tailored for our new congregational audience segment.
- We restructured our organization, combining with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and creating the Department of Affiliate Support.
Through the continuing-education program Tzey U’lemad, we created a new interactive online community for our rabbis, ReconRabbi.org, and provided other resources, including several retreats, for alumni.
RRC WILL SECURE THE FUNDS TO ACHIEVE ITS MISSION
- We completed the $50 million Leadership Campaign, the largest ever in our history.