In First, lifeatholyblossom, stories

I’ve just returned from an exhilarating, energizing (and slightly exhausting) 5 day conference, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)’s Biennial. A group of approximately 15 HBT staff and congregants participated.

Biennial has two distinct parts: Wednesday to Friday was small group learning sessions, large plenaries, choir rehearsals, receptions, and shopping in the exhibition hall, from early morning and late into the night. Energizing!

Friday and Saturday was Shabbat, like you have never seen before. Can you imagine 6,000 Jews eating Friday night dinner and then praying together? And doing it again the next morning, after having a late night song session with most of them as if you were back at summer camp? Exhilarating!

Everywhere I went, as a participant or session leader, people looked at my name tag, and said, “Holy Blossom, in Toronto, right?” and before I could respond they either asked me if I knew their friend or colleague, or said “Oh, we have heard about your congregation.” As Rabbi Splansky always reminds us, we have, and want to keep, our Shem Tov, our good name.

Within the URJ, Holy Blossom is well known, not only as the largest Canadian Reform congregation, and one of the largest and forward looking congregations in North America. We are also known for the work we do within the URJ and worldwide via the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).

Many of our past presidents and former Rabbis have served in various capacities, too many to mention, but be sure to ask Elliott Jacobson, Morris Cooper and Rabbi Marm

NFTY Past Presidents who attended the Biennial, left to right – oldest to youngest – Mark S. Anshan being the oldest, having served as the first Canadian NFTY President (1970-1971)

ur about their many roles in the URJ and WUPJ. As well, Mark Anshan is retiring from the URJ Board this year after many years of service. David Baskin is the new chair of the URJ’s Investment Committee, sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience at the North American level. I am the newest HBT recruit to the URJ Board, and I know that I have to live up to our Shem Tov, our good name. Sara Charney more than keeps up our good name as a Vice President within the Women for Reform Judaism (WRJ), as do Rabbi Jordan Helfman and Carole Sterling (chair) on the WUPJ Board.

There is so much more to share, and my fellow travellers will all be happy to talk to you about their experience at the URJ Biennial. Be sure to seek out Cheryl Sylvester, Robert Schenk, Tom Friedland, Judy Winberg, Joan Garson, David Baskin, Les Rothschild, Mark Anshan, Sara Charney, Martin Sterling, Carole Sterling, Tema Smith, Russ Joseph, Cantor Maissner, Rabbi Splansky, or me for more stories.

While there are many ways to get involved with the Reform Movement, please join us in 2 years in Chicago for the next URJ Biennial. We have much to share (and learn) and a Shem Tov to maintain. You can help and have so much fun at the same time.

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