Rabbi Todd Thalblum
As many of you know, I recently returned from the Union for Reform Judaism's Biennial Convention. This year’s convention was held in Washington, DC and it turned out to be a historic one in many ways.
First, as you’ve probably heard, the President addressed us. President Barack Obama became the first United States President to ever speak to our movement, and there were nearly 6000 of us there to hear it. It was a funny, inspirational, and even educational speech that wove together parts of the weekly Torah portion about Joseph, Reform Judaism’s commitment to real social change, and his unwavering support for Israel. I encourage all of you to watch or read his speech online. (You can watch the video here or read it by clicking here.)
In addition to the President’s speech, we also honored Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who retired as our Union’s President after 16 years, paid tribute to Debbie Friedman, whose music opened the doors for all contemporary Jewish music being used today, and heard from numerous religious, political, and educational leaders. It was the largest URJ Convention ever, and we were told we set a Guinness World Record for the largest Shabbat Dinner, when more that 4000 of us sat down together. It was, without a doubt, a great convention, one of the best ever. I encourage you check out the highlights at the URJ website. Many of the significant speeches and sessions were recorded and can be watched as a webcast. The links are here .
The retirement of Rabbi Yoffie was particularly poignant for me. He has been the President at every convention since I entered the rabbinate and his leadership and vision over the years has not only shaped the direction that Reform Judaism has headed during his tenure, but also where I have headed as well. From his demand for a revival of Shabbat worship, with more song, Hebrew, and energy, which he championed at my first Biennial, to his commitment to build a better Religious school, to even his call for serious dialogue with our Muslim neighbors, I have followed his lead gladly and will miss his guidance. It was nice to be there as we celebrated his presidency and honored his work for us.
I look forward to sharing more of my experience at this year's Biennial with you, over the coming year.
May you all have a Happy Chanukah and a wonderful New Year.