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Top 5 Highlights of the URJ Board Leadership Mission to Israel



Earlier this month, I joined URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Director of Israel Engagement Rabbi Yehudit Werchow, and nearly 50 URJ leaders for an incredible four days in Israel on the URJ Board Leadership Mission. It was a working visit, and it’s difficult to boil down such an intense trip into five highlights moments, but […]

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Shalom from Israel! URJ Board Trip is Underway



Shalom from Eretz Yisrael! I’m thrilled to be here in Jerusalem as part of the first URJ Board of Trustees Mission to Israel, led by Rabbi Rick Jacobs. This is a critical, working trip to advance the goals of our movement. We just arrived Tuesday night, but here’s a rundown of some of the highlights […]

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Putting “Inspired Engagement” into Motion



The powerful roll out of the newest implementation steps of the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the recent URJ Biennial in San Diego has generated excellent feedback and momentum. Our Reform movement-wide approach is called Inspired Engagement, a transformative teen and young adult network, which integrates diverse program offerings into one seamless year-round matrix in […]

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And Yet, He Lived: A D’var Torah on Parashat Va-y’chi from URJ Biennial 2013



[Editor's note: This d'var was given by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President of the URJ, on Friday night at the URJ Biennial.] Shabbat shalom! This week we read parashat va-y’chi, taken from the opening verse: “And Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years.  Va-y’chi, meaning “and he lived” is an ironic name, since the […]

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When Lightning Strikes and We Are Tested



Last week doctors removed the ventilation tubes from Ethan Kadish and for the first time in almost two weeks he started breathing on his own; this week we’re hopeful he’ll transfer from PICU to rehab. As you may know, Ethan and two other children, suddenly and without warning, were struck by lightning at our URJ […]

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Hard, Honest Questions



Will synagogues continue to exist in the future? Will the next generation engage in Jewish life? Is Reform Judaism still relevant? These hard, honest questions underlie the conversations we members of the URJ leadership team have every day with leaders and staff of Reform congregations.  Last week I was honored to be the ordination speaker […]

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Changing the Dynamic of Reform Jewish Education



The Jewish month of Elul is the perfect time for this symposium, and not just because  synagogues are opening of their religious school doors to young people and their parents for another year of Jewish learning. Elul is the very season of return. This month, in anticipation of the new year, we pause to recommit ourselves, […]

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Shavuot, Sinai and Ruth: A Renewal of Reform Jewish Outreach



In several days time, we will celebrate Shavuot, which commemorates God’s revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai. As part of our commemoration, we will join together as one community, stand again at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah all over again. In her groundbreaking book, Standing Again at Sinai, published more than 30 years ago, Judith […]

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Why is This Visit to The Rashi School Different From All Other Visits?



Next Wednesday, May 23, will be a big day for our family. That night, my wife, Dana Gershon, the outgoing president of The Rashi School’s board of trustees, will be honored at the school’s annual dinner. Dana has been president of the board for two years and, with four daughters, all of whom are Rashi […]

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A Prayer for My Commonwealth



Last Monday, it was my great honor to offer the invocation at the annual Massachusetts State of the Commonwealth Address given by Governor Deval Patrick. Here are the words that I shared: In the Torah portion That the Jewish people read this week We hear the story of the exodus; Specifically, the recitation of the plagues […]

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Launching the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the 2011 URJ Biennial



Boker Tov! Zeh hayom asa Adonai, nagila ve-nismcha bo! This is a day that GOD has given us; Let us rejoice and be glad in it! I am so deeply honored to stand before you as the next Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. I grew up in this Movement. My father […]

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A transition concludes, transformation begins…



We are in the midst of the Jacob stories in our Torah readings. Jacob’s life is marked by a series of transitions: birth, taking of the birthright and blessing from Esau, the journey to live with Laban, marriage to Leah and Rachel, and finally the return to his homeland. Each one of these transitions is […]

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The Campaign for Youth Engagment: A 2020 Vision



by Jonah Pesner As promised in my post last month, we are sharing with you below the DRAFT resolution on youth engagement that will be voted on at the upcoming URJ Biennial convention. It reflects our Call to Action: the steps we are committing to take as a Reform Movement in order engage more kids, […]

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Priority Number One: The Campaign for Youth Engagement



by Rabbi Jonah PesnerIn less than 48 hours, the sound of the shofar will awaken us to renewal.  As the Union for Reform Judaism prepares to pass the mantle of leadership from Rabbi Eric Yoffie to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the shofar calls us to honor the past by building for the future. That is why […]

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