The CCAR, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. It projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. The CCAR’s unique contribution to a continued vibrant Jewish community and Reform Movement lies in its work fostering excellence in Reform Rabbis; enhancing unity and connectedness among Reform Jews; applying Jewish values to a contemporary life; and creating a compelling and accessible Judaism for today and the future.
The CCAR is a mission-driven organization with a clear focus on strengthening the Jewish community through the rabbis who lead it. The CCAR achieves its core Mission by empowering Reform Rabbis to provide religious, spiritual, and organizational leadership; by enhancing rabbis’ personal and professional lives; and by amplifying the voice of the Reform Rabbinate in the Movement and Jewish community on social, ethical, and religious issues of the day. The CCAR now offers rabbis opportunities for Torah study; professional development; spiritual growth and emotional well-being; specialized services, such as placement, pension, mentoring, and transition training; and chevruta—a nurturing community among rabbis. The CCAR Press has expanded its publication of liturgy and resources for the Reform Movement, including cutting-edge e-publications.
The CCAR today is financially stable and organizationally sound with a new governance structure, rebuilt infrastructure, development, and enhanced programs and services. Also today, lay leaders join with rabbis as volunteers on certain CCAR Committees, as pro bono advisors, and as financial supporters. In fact, recent publication naming gifts from members of Jewish communities have enabled the CCAR to publish new liturgy and resources, to increase its education offerings, and to offer more services to rabbis and communities.
Meeting the Needs of the Changing Jewish Community and the Changing Rabbinate
The CCAR is addressing challenging issues within the Reform Movement and Jewish community, ranging from changing demographics to new financial realities. At the same time, as the organization working directly with rabbis “on the front lines,” the CCAR is fulfilling its specific role by meeting the needs of Reform Rabbis in the 21st Century. At our core, Reform Rabbis are, as we have been for 2000 years, teachers of Torah. At the same time, we serve as religious, spiritual, educational, pastoral, and organizational leaders. In addition, today’s rabbis are called upon to expand upon our traditional base of knowledge to serve as community organizers, outreach experts, technology and communications mavens, and financial managers/fundraisers.
CCAR Rabbinic Continuing Education – A Lifetime of Learning and Growing
To address both the traditional roles of the rabbinate and today’s demands for new capacities and skill-sets, the CCAR provides significant support for rabbis starting from their days in seminary, throughout their entire careers, and into retirement. One highlight is CCAR’s expanded Rabbinic Lifelong Continuing Education program – unprecedented in its depth and breadth – with a vast array of Torah and professional development classes through in-person seminars, webinars, extensive study at Conventions, and through our regional Kallot.
These learning opportunities are in addition to CCAR’s programs which offer coaching for rabbis, specialized group supervision, and individual consulting. In creating these opportunities, the CCAR calls upon the best scholars, visionaries, and leaders from both the non-profit and for-profit worlds.
The CCAR’s multi-day in-person seminars exemplify the way in which CCAR is successfully meeting today’s changing needs through continuing education. This year, two-day seminars have included: our first Rabbinic Leadership: The Five Essential Conversations Every Rabbi Must Master (e.g. Rabbi as “Chief Engagement Officer”); our third annual Fundraising for Rabbis; the second annual For Every Rabbi in Job Transition: Your First 100 Days In Your New Position. Another program helping congregations is the CCAR Interim Training for Rabbis: Fundamentals in Transitional Rabbinic Work, a multi-day, two year. In addition, the CCAR’s annual Convention is a four-day intensive learning opportunity. This past year, CCAR inaugurated Rabbinic Leadership Travel to Israel, with our first educational trip for rabbis who had never before taken a congregational group to Israel, helping them learn to build bridges between North American Jews and Israel.
The CCAR staffs and coordinates the CCAR/HUC-JIR Mentoring Program during rabbinic students’ final year at the Hebrew Union College-Institute and continuing during their first two years in the field, with almost 200 experienced rabbis mentoring new rabbis in their transition from the seminary to the work place. The Mentoring Program exemplifies what HUC-JIR and CCAR leadership have termed the “handoff” at Ordination from the College-Institute to the CCAR, wherein the CCAR provides lifelong learning for Reform Rabbis built upon the foundation established at HUC-JIR.
Liturgy and Other Publications
Throughout our history, the CCAR has contributed to the unification of the Reform Jewish community and the feeling of connection between individual Jews through the publication of liturgy. The use of one Movement prayerbook, whether the Union Prayer Book (1892), or later Gates of Prayer and now Mishkan T’filah, has remained the most important unifying factor for Reform Jews. Today, with the CCAR’s publication of the World Union edition of Mishkan T’filah, a Russian Haggadah, and Polish and Spanish versions of our prayerbooks, we are connecting Progressive Jews around the world.
CCAR publications also provide resource for the entire Jewish community. This includes the publication of resources such as the newly revised On the Doorposts of Your House for home celebrations and personal prayer, and our newest book entitled The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic, on the intersection of food and Judaism.
With its rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, the CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing professional needs of its 1,850 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and to develop and provide programs and projects focused on fostering excellence in rabbinic leadership. The CCAR also offers rabbinical placement services to rabbis, congregations and other organizations. These services have in recent years expanded beyond the placement of CCAR rabbis in URJ congregations to include transition services, self-assessments, and more.
CCAR operations are overseen by an elected Board of Trustees and its organizational capacities are enhanced by: a Chief Executive who is both a rabbi and an attorney; a senior staff consisting of experienced rabbis who have both served congregations, and organizations; a profressional publisher who is on the leading edge of today’s publications; a CFO team with significant experience in overseeing financial operations of both for profit and non-profit entities; a Budget & Finance Committee, an Investment Committee, which includes a lay leader who is CFO of a Fortune 100 Company and the financial manager of a major, well respected non-profit.