I Fell in Love at the URJ Biennial
by Adena Kemper
My fiance Sean and I are getting married on December 8th. When our family and friends ask us where we are going for our honeymoon, we laugh and say, “To the URJ Biennial in San Diego of course!” We didn’t intentionally set our wedding date only days before the convention where we met, but we couldn’t have planned it better.
Nearly four years ago, I was one of the few young adults in attendance at the URJ Biennial in Toronto. After the memorable experience I had at my first convention in San Diego, I could not wait to make it to the next one. As a result, I was disappointed when the majority of my classmates at HUC-JIR refrained from making the trek to Canada. Many felt the timing was suboptimal and the cost was not justifiable, but neither of these concerns could dissuade me. I booked a room with two girlfriends and hopped on a plane to the northern frontier.
Little did I know, one of my roommates had a friend named Sean from NFTY who was also in attendance in Toronto. He, too, was from my home state of New Jersey, grew up in a Reform synagogue, and was a dedicated, practicing Jew. Case in point: He has not missed a Biennial since he was in youth group! Our mutual friend introduced me to Sean on Friday night as just one of several other young people I was meeting for the very first time. We just so happened to sit next to each other at the bar after Shabbat dinner, and there we began to get to know one another.
On Shabbat morning, Sean and I explored the convention center, taking funny photos with our friends. On Shabbat afternoon, Sean visited our hotel room to catch up with our mutual friend and make a new one. On Saturday night, we were fist pumping on the dance floor, sharing our Jersey roots. Then by Sunday morning, I was asking Sean out. Only a week later, we had our first date in New York City. Three years later, he asked me to marry him.
Given the impeccable timing of our wedding, Sean and I could think of no better way to celebrate our marriage than to attend the convention where we first met. It’s in a different city, but it continues to be an affirmation of our Jewish identity and an opportunity to be in community with other Reform Jews. I am grateful to have found a lifelong partner who supports my desire to become a Reform rabbi and who wants to create an actively Jewish home, but who is not a professional Jew. In this way I have found someone who complements me, and I have the URJ Biennial to thank for that.
Adena Kemper is a rabbinical student at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.