Our movement, the Union for Reform Judaism, held its 2017 Biennial from December 6-10 in Boston. This event brings together 6000 Reform Jews from across North America and around the world. Together, clergy, lay leaders, youth leaders, students and educators learn, pray, network, and make policy for our movement. This year participants heard not only from the leaders of the URJ, but also from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, public radio’s Krista Tippett, and “The Nanny” Fran Drescher, among many others.
Preliminary results from an Israeli survey on the Reform Movement and religious pluralism were announced in the run-up to the Biennial. Among the findings, 56% of secular Israelis have attended a lifecycle ceremony officiated by a Reform or Conservative rabbi, up from about 10% in 2010. Also, there is overwhelming support 81% among the secular public for giving full equality to non- Orthodox streams of Judaism. The percentage of Israelis who identify as Reform is now 7%. Together with the 4% who identify as Conservative, that means the number of Jewish Israelis who consider themselves non-Orthodox is comparable to the number 9% who identify as ultra-Orthodox.
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs discussed the importance of connections, like a river connecting bodies of water. He encouraged reaching out to young adults, both on campus and post-graduation. He emphasized the importance of families with young children. And he observed that, now more than ever, we need to live out our values as Reform Jews, speaking out against violence and bigotry. You can read (or watch!) his inspiring State of the Union address, and much more from the Biennial, at URJ.org.
The next Biennial will be in Chicago in December 2019. Rabbi Berkson and I would love to see a CEEBJ delegation in attendance. Maybe you will join us, and celebrate Shabbat with 6000 old and new friends!