Reform and Conservative men’s clubs agree on ‘historic’ collaboration

Reform and Conservative men’s clubs agree on ‘historic’ collaboration

The men’s clubs of the Reform and Conservative movements agreed to a “historic” collaboration.

The agreement between the Men of Reform Judaism and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, announced last month on the blog of the Union for Reform Judaism, emphasizes that the arrangement is not a merger. But the groups have agreed to collaborate in various ways, including sharing data and training materials, attending each other’s meetings and missions, leadership development and promoting successful programming to the two memberships.

In the memorandum of understanding, the groups said the collaboration was “in the spirit of klal Yisrael,” the entire Jewish community, and was intended “to more effectively involve men in Jewish life.”

“This is not a merger; each organization will continue to maintain its own identity,” the agreement said. “It is our joint belief that this inter-Movement cooperation between men’s groups will enhance our understanding of, and enable us to involve, Jewish families.”

The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs is the umbrella group for over 250 affiliated Conservative organizations across North America. Men of Reform Judaism, founded in 1923, is its Reform counterpart and approved the memorandum at its June convention in New Orleans.

The Federation has often been out in front of its fellow Conservative organizations, including the rabbinical and congregational arms, in supporting liberal positions on issues like outreach to interfaith families. Last year, its executive director, Rabbi Charles Simon, urged the movement to ease its restrictions on accepting patrilineal Jews – that is, those born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers who have been raised as Jews. The Reform movement already recognizes patrilineal Jews.

“Despite our cultural differences, which each group has pledged to respect, there is much that unites us and, in fact, MRJ has been working together with FJMC on a limited basis for a few years,” Steven Portnoy, the president of the Reform group, wrote on the movement’s blog, calling the collaboration “historic.”