Download the Free URJ Biennial 2015 App for Easy Scheduling!

It’s here, it’s here! The URJ Biennial 2015 app launched this week in the AppStore and on Google Play. Download it to your smartphone or tablet, then log in using your registration confirmation.

Once the app has downloaded to your device, access all the personalized features by logging in with your name and your Biennial registration confirmation number (found in your registration confirmation email).

The app makes event scheduling simple. You can use it to search for speakers, performers, exhibitors, and more, filtering your schedule by track, sessions, plenaries, worship, etc. Mark the sessions and speakers that you don’t want to miss! Read more…

Israel’s Latest Terror Wave: The Global Reform Movement Responds

A rash of stabbings and other terror attacks on Israeli citizens have increased alarmingly over the past few days.

The World Union for Progressive Judaism, proudly headquartered in Jerusalem, condemns these acts. The cruelty of those who attack innocent civilians and children on their way home from school seems to know no limit.

The WUPJ mourns with the families and loved ones of the victims of these latest terrorist attacks.

During dark times like these, there is a powerful urge to hate and to inflict collective punishment on “the other.” However, we cannot let extremists set the agenda for the rest of us. There will only be peace once the fundamentalists no longer perpetuate this cycle of hate. Read more…

8 Principles that Drive Strong Congregations

All congregational leaders are looking for the magic formula to success, the one that will ensure that their members are happy, engaged, and Jewishly fulfilled, and that their budgets are balanced. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a few tried-and-true organizational approaches to strengthening congregational life – and we at the Union for Reform Judaism are happy to share what we’ve learned by working with you.

The URJ recently published the results of our initial round of Communities of Practice, which focused on three key areas of congregational life: engaging young adults, families with young children, and reimagining financial support. With our second round of Communities of Practice now underway, we are launching new Leadership Institute initiatives and preparing for learning sessions at the URJ Biennial 2015. Through this work, we’ve identified several themes that are vital to congregational success – and we’ve compiled a few of those not-so-secretive secrets here. Read more…

How to Organize a Hanukkah Bazaar

by Kay Schachter

Hanukkah, which begin at sundown on December 6th, seems far off – but it isn’t too early for your congregation, sisterhood, or brotherhood to start planning a Hanukkah fundraiser.

A Hanukkah bazaar is a great fundraiser; it also gets your congregants thinking about their Hanukkah shopping and can give an early boost to your congregation’s Judaica shop holiday sales figures (if you have one). Lastly, it’s a wonderful opportunity to involve your temple family. Use a Hanukkah bazaar as your kickoff to the holiday! Read more…

Small but Mighty

“When you grow up, you’ll understand.”

Have you heard this sentiment recited to young people by parents, and perhaps teachers who didn’t know the answer to a probing question, or were simply hesitant to approach it? It framed generations, in a way. Set boundaries. But in a time when we have just recently witnessed a 17-year-old becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date – I’d say the sentiment has expired. Read more…

Emerging Reform Summer Camp Affirms the Jewish Future in France

By Rabbi Tom Cohen

The terrorist attacks in Paris last January suggested to some French Jews that they try to find a safer haven elsewhere. For many others, however, these traumas have only reinforced the desire to continue building a proud Liberal Jewish community in France that is faithful to the prophetic dream of being a light unto the nations.

Even before that tragedy, in 2014, my wife and I had established a Jewish summer camp. Its seeds were planted many years earlier at URJ Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), the Union for Reform Judaism’s camp in Oconomowoc, WI.

In her youth, my wife Rabbi Pauline Bebe spent a joyful and memorable summer at OSRUI. Upon her return home to Paris, she dreamt that one day she would be able to share that experience with other French teenagers. Read more…

Moving Our Future Forward at Biennial 2015

The Reform Movement’s Biennial gathering is a prime opportunity to advance your community’s youth engagement work. Join colleagues, lay partners, and – for the first time, more than a hundred teen leaders as part of a High School Cohort – for immersive learning, networking, and celebration. Whether you’re a first-timer looking to experience a taste of everything, or a returning attendee looking for a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, the following are three unique highlights to look forward to. Read more…

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Four Important Reasons Reform Jewish Leaders Should Attend the Biennial

With the High Holiday season behind us, I hope that every service and event was meaningful and beautiful for you and your entire congregational family.

Now, take a quick breather and then consider these four important reasons to attend the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial 2015, taking place November 4-8 in Orlando, FL.

  1. Focused, practical leadership training tailored to lay, professional, clergy, and up-and-coming leaders, with workshops concentrated around these four tracks: strengthening congregations, audacious hospitality, tikkun olam, and – in partnership with Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) – “transforming texts.”

You’ll be able to pick and choose sessions that best address your congregation’s specific needs and return home with knowledge to share, and with new resources, ideas, and tools to put them to use in your congregation. (Browse all learning sessions.)

These keynote speakers – associated with the various tracks – will share their vast expertise and experience with congregational leaders:

Read more…

URJ Leadership Institute: Sessions for Leaders Before, During, and After Biennial

All leaders have to learn to navigate between their organization’s overarching vision and the day-to-day needs of the community they serve. Congregational leaders must also be able to move from the mundane to the holy, and from management to leadership.

This fall, the URJ’s Leadership Institute is offering a series of three sessions about key concepts that we hope will inspire sacred action within congregations. Both virtually and in person at the URJ Biennial 2015, congregational lay and professional leaders have opportunities to study, engage, and converse with each other and with scholars who are well-versed in three topics: Read more…

Which Intensive Programming Tracks Will You Choose at the URJ Biennial?

Whether you’re a URJ Biennial veteran or this will be your first time attending, we can’t wait to see you in Orlando this November! Together, we’ll experience the best and biggest Reform Jewish gathering ever – the rousing song sessions, joyous Shabbat worship, incredible ruach, inspiring entertainment and musical performances, occasions to network with Reform Jewish leaders from congregations across North America, and so much more. There’s no limit to the amazing opportunities – both familiar favorites and new experiences – packed into each day’s URJ Biennial activities.

Wednesday through Friday programming will be tailored to lay, professional, clergy, and up-and-coming leaders, featuring learning sessions, networking opportunities, plenaries, worship, and evening entertainment. There are 130 specialized learning sessions, including four intensive tracks: Read more…

URJ President Responds to Announcement By Palestinian Authority President

President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ, released the following response to Wednesday’s announcement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas:

We are deeply disappointed by yesterday’s announcement from Palestinian Authority President Abbas that the PA will no longer abide by the terms of the Oslo Accord. For more than two decades, the Accords have provided a framework for the eventual establishment of a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. To formally abandon this basis for peace is a terrible and cynical bet against the future of Palestinians and Israelis.

Read more…

Three Innovative Congregational Initiatives that Use Tech as an Engagement Tool

As liberal Jews in the modern world, we are not only willing to engage with the modern world, but we embrace it. Utilizing technology as a means of learning, sharing resources, and building community has not only influenced how Reform Jews develop and express their Jewish identity, but has reinvigorated it.

A number of Reform congregations selected as URJ Belin Outreach and Membership Awards winners and honorable mentions have created programs that are inspired by technology and use technology to make Judaism more accessible and relevant.

  • Bringing the virtual into reality: Congregation Emanu El in Houston, TX, created JED Talks, short for “Jews Exploring their Dreams” and inspired by the well-known TED Talks that have reshaped how people think about, discuss, and share big ideas. JED Talks, a monthly lecture series, creates opportunities for young professionals to come together in a Jewish context and meet with inspiring Jews in the Houston area, including an Olympic athlete, a celebrated harpist, a brewery founder, the head chef of a popular local restaurant, and the congregation’s new senior rabbi.

Read more…

A Conversation with Leadership Expert and Best-Selling Author Chester Elton

Best-selling author Chester Elton is one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership and employee engagement. His books, co-authored with Adrian Gostick, have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than a million copies. He has served as a leadership consultant to organizations and major companies, such as American Express, AT&T, and Procter & Gamble. He’ll also be a featured speaker at the upcoming URJ Biennial. Toronto’s Globe and Mail anointed you “the apostle of appreciation.” Why do you put so much stock in showing appreciation and recognition in the workplace?

Chester Elton: When people feel valued, everything gets better. It’s one of our most basic human needs, and we get it in our personal relationships – but when we enter the workplace, we often leave it at the door. It’s so easy to be kind, to take a minute and remind someone that they are valued. What better way to do that than to give praise regularly with a handwritten note, a pat on the back, an invitation to lunch, or to send flowers to the house? I used to work for a guy who would say, “Recognition is like a drop of oil in the machinery of business; it makes everything move a lot smoother.” When it is not here, things just grind. Read more…

From the Director’s Desk: Teen Voices in Our Work

The three pieces we have assembled for you in this issue of the Journal of Youth Engagement have several elements in common that are worth highlighting. As youth professionals, Becky, PJ and Laura all point to the need to ensure that teen voices are being heard. Read more…