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HomeยปAbout WRJ

About WRJ


Women of Reform Judaism is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. Established in 1913, WRJ now represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 women’s groups in North America and around the world.

With a mission to ensure the future of Reform Judaism, WRJ works to educate and train future sisterhood and congregational leadership about membership, fundraising, leadership skills, advocacy for social justice, and innovative and spiritual programming. Through our YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects), WRJ provides financial support to rabbinic and cantorial students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, to the youth programs of the Reform Movement, and to programs benefiting women and children in Israel, the Former Soviet Union, and around the world.

Our Mission Statement

Women of Reform Judaism, an affiliate of the Union of Reform Judaism, is the collective voice and presence of women in congregational life. Stronger together, we support the ideals and enhance the quality of Jewish living to ensure the future of progressive Judaism in North America, Israel, and around the world.

Our History

WRJ was founded in 1913, during a historic period of advancing struggle for recognition and equality for women, as The National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS). The organization was renamed in 1993 to more accurately reflect Reform Jewish women in sisterhoods throughout the world. Empowered by the Reform Movement's precept of placing Jewish women on a plane of religious equality with men, WRJ became active in areas that continue to define its work today.

The 20th Century

Over the course of the 20th century, WRJ was at the forefront of social action and change in both Jewish and secular venues. WRJ:

  • embraced relief efforts during World War I
  • aided causes on behalf of the needy during the Depression
  • brought German rabbinic students to study in the U.S. in 1935 after Hitler closed the doors of Jewish academies of higher education
  • urged governments to open borders to refugees before and during World War II, advocated for adequate services on behalf of displaced persons and for allowing Jews to resettle in Palestine after the war
  • actively participated in the formation of the United Nations and its Charter

Although marred by war and rioting, the ‘50s and ‘60s were also a time of prosperity and growing membership for the organization, as well as increased organizational commitment to science and human rights. Support for the United Nations Decade for Women brought forth many important resolutions of social activism.

NFTS became particularly involved in supporting the UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

The '70s and '80s were years of growing achievements for women in Reform Judaism, most notably the ordination, in 1972, of the first woman rabbi, Sally Priesand.

Outreach Today

Devoted to a broad spectrum of Jewish and humanitarian causes, WRJ furthers the teachings and practices of Judaism. Its diversified activities include projects supporting:

  • religious and family education
  • strengthening Jewish identity in Eastern Europe
  • the State of Israel, and
  • inter-group relations
  • a wide range of social justice and women's issues

Sisterhood

WRJ serves affiliated sisterhoods through the preparation of materials and programs to help them operate at their most effective level. This includes materials for:

  • local programming
  • organizational and leadership development
  • continuing Jewish adult education
  • education and action on critical issues and community service
  • working with high school and college age youth
  • outreach to Jews in Israel, in the Former Soviet Union, and in other re-emerging Jewish communities

Israel

Since the birth of the state of Israel, NFTS/WRJ has supported social action issues and education in the Jewish state as well as the advancement of Reform Jewish institutions, with a particular concern for the religious freedoms of Progressive Jews and women. Today, WRJ is proud to have twenty-one affiliated sisterhoods in Israel, many of which currently twin with WRJ sisterhoods in North America.

Affiliations

WRJ represents Reform Jewish women to:

  • The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
  • American Jewish World Service
  • Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
  • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
  • Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
  • National Council on Aging, and
  • other coalitions and commissions dealing with social concerns in the interreligious and general communities. WRJ is an accredited representative to both the Department of Public Information and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Representation

WRJ is represented on:

  • the Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism
  • the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
  • the Executive Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
  • the Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism, and
  • other committees and commissions of the Reform movement

WRJ Presidents

1913 – 1919
1919 – 1923
1923 – 1929
1929 – 1934
1934 – 1941
1941 – 1946
1946 – 1953
1953 – 1957
1957 – 1961
1961 – 1965
1965 – 1967

Carrie O. Simon
Hattie Wiesenfeld
Stella Freiberg
Martha L. Steinfeld
Gertrude W. Watters
Reina Hartmann
Frieda Rosett
Helen M. Dalsheimer
Daisy Monsky
Beatrice Hollobow
Marjorie Ruckeyser


1967 – 1973
1973 – 1977
1977 – 1981
1981 – 1985
1985 – 1989
1989 – 1993
1993 – 1997
1997 – 2001
2001 – 2005
2005 – 2009
2009 -
Norma U. Levitt
Betty Benjamin
Lillian Maltzer
Constance Kreshtool
Dolores Wilkenfeld
Judith M. Hertz
Judith O. Rosenkranz
Judith Silverman
Helene H. Waranch
Rosanne M. Selfon
Lynn Magid Lazar

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WRJ has been serving the needs of sisterhoods and women's groups since 1913. We're happy to continue this tradition by providing you with a variety of resource materials.


Women of Reform Judaism
is an affiliate of the
Union for Reform Judaism 
© 2010 Women of Reform Judaism, All Rights Reserved.
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