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Robert M. Heller Elected Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

Contact:Alexis Rice 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2001 -- Robert M. Heller, a partner at the leading New York City law firm of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, has been elected Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.

Heller succeeds Judge David Davidson, of Bethesda, MD, who served as Chair of the Commission since 1997. Serving as the Vice Chair of the Commission for the past two years, Heller has been a member of the CSA since 1992. Heller's father, Philip, also served on the Commission during the 1950's and 1960's.

Heller said: "Social action, which our teacher, Alex Schindler of blessed memory, once called 'applied Judaism,' enables us to live our Jewish values. I am humbled to stand in the place of so many distinguished predecessors and honored to have the opportunity of working with our extraordinary professionals and volunteers across North America. Together we will forge our own new and vital links in the chain of social action tradition that is our living legacy."

Heller, a member of New York City's Central Synagogue, holds several other key leadership positions in the Reform Movement. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and a member of the Board of Governors for the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Throughout decades of service, Heller has chaired and served as a member of several committees for the UAHC and the Reform Movement, including serving as the first Chair of its new Commission on Lifelong Jewish Learning and Chair of the Joint Task Force on the Professional Shortage, a position he will retain. He is an officer of the Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, which develops and funds programs intended to make religion a source of healing and reconciliation rather than strife and to promote interreligious understanding.

Heller, additionally, has been a member of the New York African American-Jewish Leaders Dialogue Group and is an emeritus member of the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors.

"Bob Heller is one of the most gifted and dedicated leaders of the Reform Jewish Community with an abiding and inspiring passion for social justice, said Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The CSA is a joint body of the UAHC, representing over 900 Reform synagogues and over 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), representing over 1,800 rabbis, and other affiliated entities. It seeks to apply the insights of Jewish tradition to such domestic and foreign issues as human rights, world peace, civil liberties, religious freedom, famine, poverty, intergroup relations, as well as other major societal concerns. To help synagogue members become aware of social issues and stimulate them to appropriate action, the Commission provides a large selection of books, pamphlets, audio and videotapes, and other programmatic materials relevant to the whole range of contemporary social problems.

The CSA assists congregations in establishing social action committees that will help them to apply ethical Judaic principles to contemporary issues and oversees the work of the Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington, D.C. The RAC pursues social justice and religious liberty by mobilizing the American Jewish community and serving as its advocate in the capital of the United States.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .



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