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N.Y. Rabbi Tapped to Lead Reform Jews

(RNS) A New York rabbi with a reputation for innovation has been tapped to lead the Union for Reform Judaism, the umbrella group for the country’s Reform synagogues, starting in 2012.

Rabbi Richard Jacobs has headed Westchester Reform Temple since 1991 and recently completed construction of the nation’s largest “green synagogue” to house its 1,200 families. The pulpit is Jacobs’ second since his ordination in 1982.

“We are an organization of congregations, and understanding what makes a congregation successful is critical to leading the URJ,” said Peter Weidhorn, chairman of the URJ’s board of trustees, adding that Jacobs has built a “remarkable” congregation in suburban Scarsdale.

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If Jacobs’ nomination is approved by URJ leaders in June, he will succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who has held the post for the past 16 years.

Yoffie praised his expected successor as a “once-in-a-generation leader,” and Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, called him a “powerhouse — strong, calm, committed and effective.”

Jacobs is a leader in the Synagogue 2000 movement, which aims to revitalize congregational life by fostering experimentation, innovation and “challenging the existing assumptions of synagogue life in North America.”

A graduate of the Reform movement’s flagship Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Jacobs said he wants America’s largest Jewish movement to be an “incubator for new ideas” that will foster “a new, visionary culture of excellence.”

- KEVIN ECKSTROM, Religion News Service

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