By Jeff Denaburg.
URJ President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs addressed the Biennial: Key messages in Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ talk were: (1) Audacious Hospitality – we must be open and inclusive and actively invite people to be part of our community. Rabbi Jacobs believes the trend toward higher rates of intermarriage is unstoppable (“like trying to reverse the force of gravity”), so we should find ways to integrate mixed marriage families into our synagogues. (2) Social Justice – This is one of the core strengths of Reform Judaism where we have to continue to excel. (3) Israel – We’ll continue to connect more of our members to Israel and support the Israeli Reform movement in its efforts to promote religious pluralism.
Relational Judaism – Dr. Ron Wolfson elaborated the concept of “audacious hospitality”, clarifying that its not just about welcoming people at the door and sending friendly letters to new members. It’s about multiplying the personal bonds among our members, It’s not enough to offer great programs. But programs, worship, education, etc. can be the catalyst for creating more lasting friendships among our members, so that the synagogue becomes their natural second home on many levels.
Prime Minister Netanyahu – Bibi addressed the Biennial with 3 messages related to peace: (1) Iran – A peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear program requires that the world maintain pressure (sanctions), which is the only effective incentive for Iran to compromise. (2) Palestinians – Israel wants peace, but it will only be successful if the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state (which he clarified as renouncing all subsequent national claims), and accept terms that would ensure security should future Palestinian leaders renounce peace. (3) Shalom Bayit – He praised the Reform movement’s role in developing a solution to prayer at the Kotel, said that Israel wants to offer “audacious hospitality” to Reform Jews and wanted Israel and the Reform movement to be partners in developing the Jewish world. Two topics raised by Rick Jacobs that Bibi did not respond to: settlement expansion and equality for Reform rabbis in Israel.
Anat Hoffman – The Women of Reform Judaism awarded Anat Hoffman the Jane Evans award for her work in promoting equality and human rights in Israel, and in particular as head of Women of the Wall . Anat Hoffman, who leads the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Centre, was speechless – due to laryngitis, not bashfulness. She gestured playfully as a colleague read her acceptance speech,