The Reform Movement Goes to Washington!



by Rabbi Elliott Kleinman

Synagogues are the center of Jewish life in North America.  They are vibrant, dynamic kehillot that form the foundation for Jewish living, learning and celebration.

For five days in December, however, when the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention kicks off, the center of Reform Jewish life in North America will temporarily relocate to the Washington, DC area. Here thousands of members of the Reform Jewish family will gather to worship, sing, dance, learn, connect, reconnect and engage with one another about all aspects of synagogue life. Already, members from congregations in nearly 40 states and 5 countries have registered.

Biennial_mobileLogo.jpgBetween now and then hundreds of staff and lay leaders will be workingtogether to ensure that this Biennial is the best yet. I’m pleased toshare with you some of the innovations that are in the works:

  • For the first time, all URJ, WRJ and NFTY programming, events andhotel facilities will be under one roof. Our home will be the newlybuilt Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, just outsideWashington DC.

  • On Friday evening, December 16, we’ll join together–as is ourcustom–for kabbalat Shabbat worship. Unlike in the past when we’vedisbursed to various rooms for “regional dinners,” this year, we’llremain together as one community for Shabbat dinner following theservice. This will be the largest Shabbat dinner in one room in theworld… we’ve even applied to the Guinness Book of World Records forCertification!
  • In an effort to enable young adults–the future leaders of ourMovement–to attend the Biennial, we’re excited to offer a $100registration rate for 18-35 year-olds. We look forward to participationfrom this vibrant cohort at the Biennial and to their continuedinvolvement with Reform Judaism for a long time to come.
  • In addition to enticing our young adults, we’re devoting an entireprogrammatic track to youth engagement within the Movement. Learn whyteens and their families leave their synagogues post b’nei mitzvah, andwhat your congregation can do about it. What will attract our teens toJewish experiences? What are our Movement’s goals for Jewish living andlearning? How do we create a culture in which the needs of all childrenare fully met? How do we build relationships between congregations andday school families?  These and other timely topics will be the focus ofthe Biennial’s Education Summit: Youth Engagement.  As with everyBiennial, you can expect dynamic speakers to be announced soon.
  • One final innovation: In the category of “latest and greatest,”we’re excited about new technology that will enable you to download yourpersonal Biennial schedule directly to your phone for easy referencewhile you’re on-site. Once you’ve registered for Biennial, you can visit the website, create a profile and get started. You’ll be able to connect with other attendees who have the same interests, learn who’s attending which sessions, and much more.

So, whether you’ve never been to a Biennial or are a seasoned regular, Ihope you’re planning to be with us in December, and I look forward toseeing you there.

Visit the Biennial website for more information. Registration is now open online.


Rabbi Elliott Kleinman is the Chief Program Officer at the Union for Reform Judaism.

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