This profile was last updated in 2006
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) is a federation of over 550 sisterhoods, or congregational women’s groups, representing more than 75,000 Reform Jewish women in the United States, Canada, and abroad. WRJ “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.”
A sisterhood – the basic building block of WRJ – is a congregational organization of women dedicated to study, worship, friendship, and individual growth. A sisterhood may determine to run a variety of programs that benefit the larger congregation and community. WRJ produces materials for local sisterhoods on programming; advocacy; adult education; worship; community service; preschool learning; working with youth and young adults; health; assisting the elderly; and organizational and leadership development. WRJ holds a biennial Assembly at which delegates from local sisterhoods make decisions about the future program and policy directions of WRJ.
WRJ is composed of twelve geographical District Federations, varying in size from one to six states – that are in turn made up of the congregational sisterhoods they encompass. The purpose of each District Federation is to serve as a liaison between the local sisterhoods and WRJ, and to assist in implementing WRJ projects and programs. Each District Federation offers a newsletter, traveling workshops, institutes and a speaker’s bureau. These resources strengthen relationships between the District and the sisterhoods, and assist sisterhoods in meeting their specific challenges and goals. Every two years, each District Federation hosts a convention at which officers are elected.
Humanitarian and Social Justice Work
An affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, WRJ is the women’s agency that works on a number of Jewish and humanitarian issues. Projects range from work on behalf of the blind and visually impaired to support of the institutions and programs of Reform and Progressive Judaism in the State of Israel. In addition to many social justice programs, WRJ also runs a variety of educational programs both in religious and family education. It also supports the YES (Youth, Education and Special Projects) Fund for strengthening Reform institutions and leadership development. The organization was involved in the founding of both NFTY (the North American Federation of Temple Youth) and the Jewish Braille Institute.
Advocacy and Action
WRJ’s Department on Religious Action provides resources for advocacy, programming and community services. As part of WRJ’s constitutional mandate, this work is front and center to the organization’s identity in the Jewish community and in society. Numerous resolutions and policy statements, adopted at WRJ assemblies, help to guide individual and communal action for social justice from a foundation of Jewish values. The Guide for Advocacy and Action is a tool produced by WRJ that provides concrete recommendations for action based on such resolutions and statements. Current action issues include civil liberties, workers’ rights, electoral reform, humanitarian intervention in Sudan, trafficking in people, and stem cell research, to name a few. Additional up-to-date resources, including programming and advocacy recommendations, are available online, via email and by request.
Carolyn Kunin, Director of Programming and Advocacy, remarked, “Women of Reform Judaism has always put a priority in its agenda on interfaith, inter-ethnic, and inter-cultural programming.” WRJ participates in a variety of Jewish and interreligious coalitions and commissions, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Interfaith Coalition on Aging, and was active in Interreligious Health Care Access Campaign and the Religious Network for the Equality of Women. The organization is also represented on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Board of Trustees of the URJ, the Executive Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and the Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism. Finally, WRJ is an accredited representative to the United Nations Department of Public Information and the US Mission to the United Nations.
Coalitions and Commissions
WRJ participates in a variety of Jewish and interreligious coalitions and commissions, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Religious Network for the Equality of Women, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Interfaith Coalition on Aging, and Interreligious Health Care Access Campaign. The organization is also represented on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Board of Trustees of the UAHC, the Executive Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and the Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism. Finally, WRJ is an accredited representative to the Department of Public Information and the US Mission to the United Nations.