The newly-elected president of the United Synagogue, Michael Goldstein, told the JN this week that “one of the most important messages to take out of the recent JPR report is that none of us can take our membership for granted”.
Mr Goldstein, who won a contested election over Russell Kett on Monday evening, added: “Gone are the days when people would join a shul as a matter of course. Today we need strong local communities who connect meaningfully with all of their members and who express values that speak to people living in the 21st century. For the United Synagogue this means embracing modernity, articulating our commitment to inclusivity and retaining a commitment to our authentic, Orthodox tradition.”
Last week a JPR report commissioned by the Board of Deputies revealed that while there were more synagogues than ever in the UK, shul membership was declining. But Mr Goldstein, who has been elected for a four-year-term, told members of the US Council: “My manifesto made clear that the US must be at the centre of inclusive Orthodoxy. To do this we must reach out to every Jew and engage them with activities that create vibrant local communities.
“Through the combination of excellent local rabbis and lay leaders, working with head office and partner organisations, we can build a dynamic modern Orthodox movement. This is the key to delivering sustained growth in our membership and securing our traditions for future generations”.
The incoming present emphasised his determination to build on the work of his predecessor, Stephen Pack, who served two three-year terms.
Eight other US trustees were elected on Monday night. Maxwell Nisner was voted in as treasurer alongside Andrew Eder, Barry Shaw and Saul Taylor in the election for male honorary officers. Re-appointed as female honorary officers were Claire Lemer, Leonie Lewis and Doreen Samuels, while Fleurise Lewis was elected for the first time.
Thanking the former trustee body, Mr Goldstein said: “Every one of the outgoing trustees has made a real contribution to the future of our community. We all must acknowledge the huge debt of gratitude that we owe for their tireless dedication and hard work”.
With his election, Michael Goldstein, chairman of JW3, marks a unique double act for Anglo-Jewry, as his brother Jonathan Goldstein has recently become chair of the Jewish Leadership Council. Ironically Jonathan was elected after the outgoing US president, Stephen Pack, withdrew from the race.
The Goldstein brothers have a long record of communal service. They grew up in Ilford and Michael became a trustee of UJIA in his 20s. A former chairman of Mill Hill Synagogue he is also former vice-chairman of a US school, King Solomon High. But he has never served as a US officer — and comes into the post with a long list of innovations which he wants to introduce to make the US the pride of the community.
Jerry and Ann Goldstein, Michael and Jonathan’s parents said: “We are very proud of our three sons and their families. We have always tried to live by the principles our parents taught us: to stick together as a a family, to be good Jews, and to give back to the community. We know that being leaders of the community is not an easy task and we really admire their desire to put themselves forward and try to make a difference. It is more than we ever could have expected from them.”