URJ 75th Biennial

URJ 75th Biennial

The 75th URJ Biennial was held December 11-15 in the windy city of Chicago. 5,000 Reform Jews came together to pray, learn, listen to inspirational speakers, be entertained and to network with new friends. Temple Beth El was well represented among the 525 congregations in attendance, sending a delegation of 8 which included Rabbi Kail, Cantor Davidson, Gale and Eliot Swartz, Marla Shwarts, Linda Herman, Julie Cohen and Andrea Lawrence.

We were excited and proud to experience Cantor Davidson along with Cantor Natalie Young, making beautiful music together as they opened the Thursday Plenary in front of thousand in attendance. There were an overwhelming 147 sessions one could choose from, this included the intensive tracks, such as Engagement and Development, Early Childhood and Family Engagement, Social Justice, and Leadership Initiatives.

One of the benefits of the URJ Biennial is catching up with those who have touched our lives, such as Rabbi Chuck and Rabbi Kohn along with many from Camp Newman, and 6 Points California Specialty Camps.

Daryl Messinger who was the first woman to be the Union for Reform Judaism Chair of the Board and has served for the past 4 years was honored for her dedication and hard work. Daryl passed the torch to Jennifer Kaufman who was voted to serve as URJ Chair of the Board for the next 2 years.

Some of the highlights of the URJ Biennial included the inspirational speakers, such as Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs who talked about expanding the Tent and welcoming Jews of Color, being more inclusive in our congregations and the need for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Deborah Lipstadt, a Professor of Holocaust Studies spoke to us on the rise of antisemitism, and Jodi Kantor who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein.

There were 3 resolutions that were voted on and passed. One was a ban on private prisons and the closure of those that are currently open. One was on increasing funding and encourage medical treatment to combat the opioid crisis. The last one was calls for a federal commission to study and develop proposals for reparations for African Americans.

The WZC (World Zionist Congress) Vote Reform, starting January 21st through March 11th was an important theme and TBE will have a campaign explaining how you can vote and be part of this very important election.

One of the most special memories at URJ Biennial is when all 5000 Jews come together for Shabbat to pray as one congregation with hope in our hearts for a world of Love and Peace!

Eliot Swartz