Leader of Reform movement retiring

The longtime leader of the Reform synagogue movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, announced that he will be stepping down in two years.

Yoffie, 63, president of the Union for Reform Judaism for the past 14 years, made the announcement last week in remarks at a meeting in Brooklyn of the organization’s board of directors.

“My energy and enthusiasm remain undiminished, but I see 65 as an age when I should be taking into account the simple fact that there are burdens to this job and they cannot be borne forever,” Yoffie said, according to a prepared text of the speech. “Even more important, I recognize the value of making way for new thinking in our future-oriented movement; leadership is an act of renewal and re-creation, and at a certain point, it is best to encourage others to try their hand at these tasks.”

As URJ president, Yoffie spearheaded the controversial campaign to transform Reform worship and liturgy, a process that stressed a greater emphasis on Hebrew and tradition, and a more participatory musical style.

In addition to leaving a strong stamp on the Reform movement, Yoffie emerged as one of the Jewish community’s leading advocates of a robust U.S. role in advancing the peace process, and he frequently criticized Israeli settlement expansion. At the same time, he was not shy about placing the onus for the breakdown in negotiations on the Palestinians. — jta