Chizuk Amuno Congregation is looking to celebrate and rejoice the beauty and meaning of Jewish tradition through programming that is innovative, 21st century and Conservative Movement 2.0
Beginning Nov. 1, accomplishing this goal will be just a little easier.
On Nov. 1, Glenn S. Easton will join the congregation full time as its new executive director. Easton replaces Ron Millen.
Rabbi Ron Shulman, a childhood friend of Easton’s (by coincidence), described the new executive director as “among the leading synagogue administrators in the country” and as a “committed and practicing and knowledgeable Conservative Jew who brings a warmth, caring and humanity to his synagogue work that is really precious and special.”
Easton comes to Chizuk from Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., at which he spent the last 22 years. Before that, he worked at B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, a job he was referred to by his wife’s aunt. Easton, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, said the aunt saw an advertisement for the position in the Baltimore Jewish Times and sent it his way. Easton became the country’s youngest executive director then and at B’nai Israel was given the opportunity to experiment with new approaches to nonprofit management. He spearheaded efforts to install some of the first personal computers used for synagogue administration.
At Adas, Easton worked with lay leaders and staff to pay off a $4.5 million mortgage, eliminate a $1 million operating deficit (which created a significant operating reserve fund), build a $20 million endowment fund and institute a unique set of personnel practices and policies that helped designate the congregation as “One of the Best Nonprofits to Work For” by the Non-Profit Times magazine.
Easton attributes much of his success to helping the synagogue regain focus on its mission, being a sacred place where God dwells, where rabbis teach and inspire and children learn to ensure the future of the Jewish people.
“Children are the bedrock of the Jewish community, without which Judaism today would not exist,” wrote Easton in an article titled, “Are You a ‘Freemium’ Or A Premium Synagogue User?”
He also said that some synagogues spend too much time talking about money when they should be talking about their mission; it does not take money to study, to worship or to visit the sick.
“Once we truly get to know and provide meaning in the lives of our congregants, the funding will follow,” Easton said, noting that at Adas part of the success was not that it eliminated financial development, but rather the constant nickel-and-dime fundraising solicitations.
Rabbi Shulman and Easton said they share the same vision of building deeper relationships with the roughly 1,500 households who are members of Chizuk Amuno and look forward to partnering to move this agenda forward.
“In 21st-century synagogue life,” said Rabbi Shulman, “we create community through in-reach.”
Rabbi Shulman said at Chizuk, the congregation and leaders seek to develop relationships between members, clergy and educators.
He said, “Glenn will be a true partner to us in this next horizon.”
Easton, whose wife went to preschool at Chizuk and had her bat mitzvah there, said beginning work at Chizuk is somewhat of a homecoming. (His daughter went to school with Joe Flacco, so everyone in the family is already a Ravens fan.) He will be joining Josh Bender, who recently took the position of head of the lower school at Krieger Schechter; Bender was the director of education at Adas with Easton for several years.
Easton also said that he sees many similarities between Adas and Chizuk, including their founding in the 19th century, similar size memberships, large buildings and staffs, active community involvement, synagogue cemeteries and Jewish day schools (with Chizuk’s Krieger Schechter Day School and Adas’ founding of the Jewish Primary Day School before it separated from the congregation).
The job at Chizuk intrigued him, he said, because he felt it was time to “re-energize my batteries and get to know a new community.”
Said Easton: “Conservative Jud-aism 2.0 needs to reinvent itself by creating a movement that is adaptable, innovative, inspiring and socially responsible. … I want the movement to succeed so my children and grandchildren can be a part of Conservative Judaism 3.0 and 4.0.”
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — firstname.lastname@example.org