The Central Conference of American Rabbis is the Reform rabbinic professional leadership organization that instills excellence in the Reform Jewish rabbinate. The oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America, the CCAR strengthens the Jewish community by providing religious, spiritual, ethical, and intellectual leadership and wisdom for the 2,200 rabbis who serve more than 2 million Reform Jews throughout North America, Israel, and the world. 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.
Founded in 1889, the CCAR is a mission-driven organization with a clear focus on strengthening the Jewish community by supporting the rabbis who lead it. The CCAR achieves its mission of 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 Reform Movement and broader Jewish community on critical social, ethical, cultural, religious, and human rights issues of the day. The CCAR also supports rabbis by providing a center for lifelong rabbinic learning, resources, and innovation, providing rabbis ongoing opportunities for Torah study, professional development, spiritual growth and emotional well-being, specialized services—including placement, pension, mentoring, and transition training—and chevruta—a nurturing community among rabbis.
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 addresses 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 its core, Reform Rabbis are—as we have been for 2000 years—teachers of Torah. At the same time, Reform Rabbis serve as religious, spiritual, educational, pastoral, and organizational leaders. In addition, today’s rabbis are called upon to expand upon a traditional base of knowledge to serve as community organizers, outreach experts, digital 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 the 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 the CCAR’s programs, which include 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 seminars exemplify the way in which CCAR successfully meets today’s changing needs through continuing education. Our seminars include: Rabbi as “Chief Engagement Officer”: The Five Essential Conversations Every Rabbi Must Master; Shekels: Fundraising for Rabbis; and For Every Rabbi in Job Transition: Your First 100 Days In Your New Position. The organization also runs CCAR Interim Training for Rabbis: Fundamentals in Transitional Rabbinic Work, a multi-day, two-year program that helps congregations make healthy transitions to new settled rabbis. In addition, the CCAR’s annual Convention is a four-day intensive learning opportunity to enrich, educate, and strengthen CCAR member rabbis. And the CCAR organizes annual educational leadership trips to Israel for rabbis, helping them stay current on the latest realities of Israel, learn to run and lead congregational trips, and helping them gain skills in bridge-building 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 its 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), 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, the CCAR Press connects Progressive Jews around the world.
CCAR Press publications also provide resources for the entire Jewish community. This includes the publication of resources such as On the Doorposts of Your House for home celebrations and personal prayer, and Mishkan Ga’avah: Where Pride Dwells, A Celebration of LGBTQ Jewish Life and Ritual.
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 more than 2,200 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 rabbinic 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 one of the first and only woman Chief Executives to lead a religious organization; a senior staff consisting of experienced rabbis who have both served congregations and organizations; a professional publisher 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 several members who work in finance.