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Convention in New Orleans

MRJ's convention in New Orleans, held June 24 - 26th, was by all accounts, well received.

Friday night began with a very special service entitled "Scotch and Shabbat."  An interactive service of traditional prayers infused with questions designed to elicit reponses from those present such as "where or when did you see God this past week?"

Following services we enjoyed dinner and our featured guest speaker, Rabbi Charles (Chuck) Simon, the Executive Director of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs.

Saturday began with Torah study and services led by Rabbi Robert Loewy from Congregation Gates of Prayer, Metairie, LA.  There is always something special, powerful and moving when a large group of Jewish men pray together.

After lunch, the first program was conducted with our panel speakers, Cory Sparks, the Director of the Louisiana Association of Non-Profit Organizations and Roselle Ungar, who is the current President of the New Orleans Chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals and Executive Director of Jewish Family Services in New Orleans.

Our second session was highly anticipated  It was an examination of the Memorandum of Understanding between MRJ and FJMC.  Rabbi Simon was joined by FJMC International President Allan Gottesman, immediate Past President Myles Simpson and by MRJ President Tom Wiener with Steven Portnoy MRJ 1st VP.

A long question and answer period followed.  Every aspect of the MOU was examined.  It was stressed by all that this was not and would not be a merger, rather it is a collaboration.  Each organization will continue to maintain it's seperate identity.  Two amendments were offered by Charlie Niederman and he will present written versions to be included in the MOU on Sunday.

This inter-Movement cooperation is a historic first.

"May we work together to build up the household of Israel for our children and their children."

Sunday was our business meeting.  The first order of business was a vote on accepting changes to the MRJ constitution eliminating references to the Jewish Chautauqua Society which had been transferred to URJ.  The changes were approved.

The next business item was the MOU.  Although we had spent quite a bit of time discussing it on Saturday, some questions remained and a bit of discussion followed.  In due time, the amendments were presented and accepted, and then the MOU was overwhelmingly approved.

Lastly, the budget - approved!

President Tom Wiener asked for the floor.  Tom announced that for personal reasons he felt he could not serve as he wanted and resigned.  According to MRJ bylaws, the 1st VP, Steven Portnoy succeeds and becomes President.  The immediate past-president (Tom) now has to form a nominating committee to select a new 1st VP.

A few days later, President Portnoy emailed the members of the Executive Council to ask for a two votes.  Both passed, and Tom Wiener is now MRJ's Honorary President and Rob Himmelstein is the new 1st VP.  Mazel Tov to both.

West Coast Man of the Year



Pictured left to right:
Charlie Neiderman MRJ West VP, Myles Simpson (FJMC) Immediate Past International President
Steve Silverstone (FJMC) Western Region President
Stephen Sherman MRJ West VP and Brian Hatkoff MRJ West President

Reform men from MRJ joined the Conservative men of FJMC.  On August 21, 2016, MRJ was invited to attend the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs Western Region for their 8 th annual Man of the Year and Youth of the Year lunch, held at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.  Brian Hatkoff, current president of the MRJ West was asked to make some comments as a representative of MRJ. Also in attendance were Steve Sherman and Charlie Niederman, both EC members of MRJ and Vice presidents of MRJ West. In Brian Hatkoff's remarks, he indicated both Men's movements have much more in common than not and that we can learn from each other.  At the national MRJ Meeting in New Orleans, a letter of understanding between the two national organizations came to an agreement to work with each other in Leadership development, programming ideas, marketing and what ever other areas of common interest there were.

How do we keep our men involved?  The men, who at one time were so involved, are now removing themselves from our congregations.  How do we teach our sons to stay connected?  How do we teach our children the importance of Judaism without alienating them so they continue to participate and have strong feeling for their faith to continue?  How do we reach out to those younger families that don’t want the brick and mortar structures that we are so used to?

I am not a Rabbi.  I am not a psychologist.  I do not work in the Jewish community as a paid professional.  I am just a lay person, just as most of you who have a concern for the Jewish future.  What I do have is a love for my faith.  I have three grown children who in spite of what my wife and I have tried to teach them, hope that they will continue in the same vein as we have.  They are goods kids.  None of them are married yet. 

I wish I had some of the answers.  This is not something that can be solved overnight.  This will be a generational project over the next 20 years that both the reform and conservative moments must work on.

The futures of our Jewish movements are in our hands.  We have the tools.  We have the will.  Will we make the right choices for our families and for our Jewish future?  By seeing those in attendance today at this Man of the Year and youth of the year event, I am confident the future is in good hands.
Brian Hatkoff





Minutes From the MRJ Executive Council Meeting of June 26, 2016


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A link to an article published by URJ
in "Inside Leadership"
Jewish Men's Groups Agree to an Unprecedented Collaboration

Link to a story on our collaboration as published by JTA

Further coverage of our collaboration

Originating the position within URJ, is Evan Traylor, who is the "Presidential Fellow for Millennial Engagement"
Here is a link to a blog piece written by Evan on one of favorite topics - Millenials
Look for the shoutout to MRJ and Roc



MRJ was proud to sign on.
Read the statement here:


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