WRJ has role to play in enacting youth engagement campaign

WRJ has role to play in enacting youth engagement campaign

Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) will play a significant role in enacting the Reform movement’s new youth engagement effort, Lynn Magid Lazar pledged. And that role will involve more than just fundraising.

“WRJ has a huge role in implementing this,” said Lazar, who was installed for her second consecutive term as WRJ president at the just-completed URJ Biennial conference. “We’ll do what we always do, which is funding things, but almost as important, we have a delivery system.”

By delivery system, Lazar meant the WRJ’s 65,000 members in 500 congregations who are already actively involved in synagogue life and can play a role in implementing the movement’s new Campaign for Youth Engagement.

“We have the boots on the ground, so to speak,” she told the Chronicle. “We have groups that by and large are already working with their youth groups, preschools and college kids. We historically have, and will continue to be, the connection, the delivery system for some of these programs.”

Another priority for Lazar’s second term will be preparation for the WRJ centennial. The organization, which has chapters throughout the United States, Canada, Israel and partnerships with Jewish organizations in Eastern Europe, was founded in 1913 as the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and has been on the cutting edge of many social justice issues the Reform movement eventually adopted, including women in the rabbinate.

“We are planning an entire year of celebration activities leading from a leadership conference to an academic symposium led by [American Jewish historian] Jonathan Sarna,” Lazar said.

While Lazar begins her second term at a time when women are entering the rabbinate in record numbers and assuming greater roles in congregational life, she is aware there is still much to do.

For instance, during the Saturday Shabbat service at the Biennial, she was the only woman sitting in the front row on the bima — a place reserved for the highest leaders of the movement.

“It is still hugely dominated by men,” she said “You look at the Conference of Presidents and all the presidents of the colleges and all the leaders of the movements, it is still, by and large, men. I’m not saying the doors are totally closed, but it is still predominately low.”

A native of Cumberland, Md., Lazar graduated from Goucher College and the University of Pittsburgh. She worked with blind and visually impaired children as an orientation and mobility specialist. She co-owns an aerobic exercise franchise and teaches classes as a certified instructor. She served as WRJ District 5 president from 1996 to 1998. A Temple Sinai member, she has served on the board of directors and currently serves on the board of her sisterhood.

She is married to Dale Lazar and has a daughter Jessica; two sons, Aaron and Ethan; a daughter-in-law, Sage; and a stepson, Brent.

“We have been transformative in the life of the movement, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” Lazar said of the WRJ. “I want the second century of our organization to be as powerful and transformative as the first century has been.”

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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