Lynn Maggid Lazar caught a virus in Toronto earlier this month. It laid her up when she returned to Pittsburgh.
But she’s feeling well enough now to take on her new job — national president of the 65,000-member strong Women for Reform Judaism.
“I’m really feeling a thousand percent better,” Lazar said.
That’s good news for the WRJ — the largest auxiliary of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Lazar accepted the position at the WRJ’s 47th biennial assembly in Toronto, which ran concurrent to the URJ biennial. She will serve a two-year term, but past WRJ presidents have generally served a second term as well.
Founded in 1913, the WRJ is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. It educates and trains future sisterhood and congregational leadership about membership, fundraising, leadership skills, advocating for social justice and innovative and spiritual programming. It is among the largest donors to the URJ, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Historically, the WRJ has taken controversial stands before the rest of the Reform movement adopted them.
“We advocated for women in the rabbinate about 11 years before it actually happened,” Lazar said.
A native of Cumberland, Md., Lazar — a graduate of Goucher College and the University of Pittsburgh — worked with blind and visually impaired children as an orientation and mobility specialist. She is currently co-owner of an aerobic exercise franchise and teaches classes as a certified instructor. She serves on the board of the Sisterhood at Temple Sinai.
Lazar is married to Dale Lazar. The couple has a daughter, Jessica; two sons Aaron and Ethan; a daughter-in-law, Sage, and a stepson, Brent.
As WRJ president, the Pittsburgh resident hopes to grow the organization.
“Overall, I want to increase our public profile and promote the value of Sisterhoods,” Lazar said. “Concretely, I’d like to increase membership; that means women in affiliated congregations and unaffiliated women’s groups.
“There are issues that congregations will not have at the top of their lists and that congregations will not address and won’t be addressed [if women don’t seize them],” she added. “It’s not a value judgment to say women function differently than men and we need to capitalize on those strengths.”
During its Toronto assembly, the WRJ adopted three resolutions that,
• Call for stronger food safety
• Support programs at the congregational level that teach the telltale signs of elder abuse while encouraging networking on the issue;
• Advocate humane treatment for illegal immigrants and advocating for legislation that clears “pathways to legalization.”
“That was the resolution that had the most debate,” Lazar said. “We understand that in some parts of the country people are more personally impacted [by illegal immigration] than in other parts, but I believe the resolution passed because it deals with humane treatment for people already caught in the system, and we are looking to advocate and legislate some way to citizenship for people who are already here.”
Since its founding, Lazar added, the WRJ has never needed to rescind a resolution.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1005.)