World's Reform Rabbis, Gathering to Confront Shifting Realities and Shape Future, Are Charged by Tulane President to Use New Orleans' Rebirth as Model for Tapping Creativity, Conviction and Resilience

Message From Tulane's Scott Cowen Opens 122nd Annual Convention of Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR); Cowen, Force Behind City's and University's Rebound Post-Katrina, Says Rabbis and Other Clergy Should Use Civil Society Engagement to Counter U.S. Malaise

NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwire - March 28, 2011) - 500 Reform rabbis convened here to explore the future of Reform Judaism and use New Orleans as a laboratory for confronting significant challenges with imagination and creativity.

Dr. Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, delivered the opening address of the four-day convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). He described human forces behind New Orleans' remarkable, and seemingly impossible, return from the Katrina tragedy, which can inform transformation efforts in communities and in society at large. (CCAR is the professional organization of nearly 2,000 Reform rabbis, the world's largest group of Jewish clergy.)

Among Dr. Cowen's key points:

  • The story of New Orleans is a cautionary tale... Decline and debilitating problems -- abominable public education and healthcare, crumbling infrastructure -- were well known long before Katrina, but addressed ineffectively. Only a disaster of epoch proportions got the city to change. 

  • The Katrina rebound underscores three key elements of transformation: (a) an understanding of reality ("hope" alone doesn't constitute a plan and needs to be balanced with the concrete); (b) creativity, innovation and improvisation; and (c) a moral compass, namely faith and conviction.

  • Communities and civil society initiatives (as opposed to government) are the root of positive change. He used the example of the transformation of New Orleans public schools since Katrina. They were among the worst in the U.S. Now, a decentralized system has 70% students in charter schools, which are run by communities and are the responsibility of communities. Accordingly, the chances of improvement are significant.

  • The most powerful force to fight the country's malaise -- its economic decline, national debt, substandard education, and widening gap between rich and poor -- is through massive numbers of small scale efforts, galvanizing young adults. Faith-based organizations and leaders can be among the most effective agents for this change.

Note to Journalists: To attend the CCAR Convention, obtain schedule of events or to arrange a conversation with the leaders of the CCAR, please contact Itay Engelman at Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or

About the Central Conference of American Rabbis 2011 Convention

The 122nd annual Central Conference American Rabbis convention is taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana from March 27-30, 2011. More than 500 Reform Rabbis have gathered to share plans to build and maintain communities. Highlights include sessions on interfaith dialogue, sustainability and custodianship of the Earth.

About The CCAR

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. As the professional organization for Reform Rabbis, the CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. The CCAR has a rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, providing them opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth throughout their careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of the Reform Jewish community. For more information please visit the CCAR's website at

Contact Information:

Itay Engelman
Sommerfield Communications, Inc.