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Virtual Biennial

I am sad that I am not able to join the over 6000 colleagues, lay leaders and friends in Washington, D.C. this week for the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial.   I haven’t missed a Biennial since the 1980’s!   I was registered to go but we had to scale back our travel and convention lines of the Kol Ami budget.  It is tough times out there for people and for synagogues.

But now you can join with me virtually!  Here is a schedule for all of the broadcasts of the Biennial including Shabbat services which are always inspiring and rousing!  Remember the times are Eastern Standard Time.  Click on this link to log in!  And watch the main sessions over the next week!  I know it will inspire you.  Even President Obama will be speaking on Friday!

Live and Recorded Webcasts

This year all of the plenary sessions and forums will be available for viewing via online webcasts on this page. Tune in to watch! The following noted sessions will be streamed live; the others will be available as soon as possible, within hours.

Wednesday Evening 8:15–10:15 P.M. Welcome to DC Plenary

  • Call to Order: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, Temple Shaari Emeth, Manalapan, NJ
  • Welcome:
    • Carole Sterling, 2011 Biennial Chair, Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, ON; Edward Burger, 2011 Biennial Vice Chair, Congregation B’nai Israel, Bridgeport, CT.
    • Co-Chairs, 2011 Local Arrangements Committee Kathy Goldgeier, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD; Lauren Racoosin, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, DC; Chuck Thornton, Temple Rodef Shalom, Fairfax, VA
  • Presentation of Credentials: Charles Rothschild, Chair, Union for Reform Judaism Credentials Committee, Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA
  • Nominations and Elections for At-large Representatives to the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees and MUM Committee:
    • Robert M. Heller, Former Board of Trustees Chair and Nominating Committee Chair, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Synagogue, New York, NY
    • Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Since the Last Biennial: Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Remarks: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Keynote: The Blessing of a B Minus
    • Introduction: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Speaker: Dr. Wendy Mogel, Best-selling author
  • Address: Natan Sharansky
    • Introduction: Rabbi Robert Orkand, President, ARZA The Reform Israel Fund
    • Speaker: Natan Sharanksy, Chairman,

    Jewish Agency for Israel

  • Tribute to Debbie Friedman (z”l) andPresentation of the Inaugural Debbie Friedman Award for Contributions to Jewish Music to Theodore Bikel
  • Musical Presentation: Kol B’seder

Thursday Morning 8:45–10:15 A.M. Joint Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Julie Silver
  • Welcome: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Keynote
    • Introduction: Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
    • Speaker: Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), U.S. House Majority Leader
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to Ambassador Nancy Brinker
    • Presentation: Lynn Magid Lazar, President, Women of Reform Judaism, Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh, PA, Rabbi David Stern, Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, TX
    • Acceptance: Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to Rabbi Richard Hirsch
    • Presentation: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism, Natan Sharanksy, Chairman, Jewish Agency for Israel
    • Acceptance: Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honorary Life President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Founding Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thursday Afternoon Forums 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Campaign for Youth Engagement: Committing to the Jewish Future

Please participate with us as we launch the Campaign for Youth Engagement, a Movement-wide strategic commitment to successfully engage a majority of Reform Jewish youth by the year 2020.

Join Rabbis Rick JacobsJonah PesnerEric Yoffie, and Peter Weidhorn (URJ), Rabbi David Ellenson, President (HUC-JIR), Wayne Firestone, President (Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life) and Forrest Yesnes, President (NFTY) along with the leadership of ACC, CCAR, ECE-RJ, MRJ, NATA, NATE, PARDeS, and WRJ for this dynamic and interactive forum. Learn how to take action in your congregation and be part of this historic moment when we come together to commit to the Jewish future.

The People Demand Social Justice: A New Era in the Pursuit of Social Justice and Equal Rights in the Jewish State

Gilad Kariv and Anat HoffmanThis summer, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in an unprecedented series of protests focusing on social justice. Have we reached a tipping point on these issues? IMPJ Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, and IRAC Director, Anat Hoffman, on the current status of Israeli-Arabs, progressive Jews and other minorities in Israeli society.


Liberalism, Conservatism: Which Better Furthers Jewish Values and Jewish Interests?

David Saperstein and Bill KristolRabbi David Saperstein, Director of the RAC, and William Kristol, Editor of theWeekly Standard and television commentator, will debate different approaches, discuss which provide the best paths to achieving the goals of Jewish values and security, and explore where we can find common ground.

The Changing Landscape of Jewish Life and Its Implications for Reform Judaism: Two Views

Len Saxe and Steve CohenWhat are the key socio-cultural changes in Jewish life, and what do they mean for the future of the Jewish community and Reform Judaism? Leonard Saxe, of Brandeis University, and Steven M. Cohen, of HUC-JIR, will discuss their different takes on these pivotal issues in what is sure to be an engaging and lively conversation.

Thursday Evening 8:15–10:15 P.M. Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Six13
  • Recognizing Award Winning Congregations: Belin Outreach Awards, Epstein Communicate! Awards, Nachshon Awards, Irving J. Fain Awards
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to David Boies and Ted Olson
  • Focus on Future Leaders Remarks: Wayne Firestone, President, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
  • EIE Celebrates 50 Years
  • Keynote Address:
    • Introduction: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Speaker: The Honorable Ehud Barak, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
  • Resolutions Debate: Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, Chair, URJ Resolutions Committee, Congregation B’nai Israel, Sacramento, CA

Friday afternoon- 12:45–3:00 P.M. Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Josh Nelson Project
  • Chairman’s Address
    • Introduction: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Remarks: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Campaign for Youth Engagement Kickoff Presentation: Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of Presidential Transition, Union for Reform Judaism
  • The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: Celebrating 50 Years of Social Justice Leadership
  • Keynote Address: The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States

Friday evening- 6:15–7:15 P.M. Kabbalat Shabbat Service

  • Rabbi Micah Greenstein, Temple Israel, Memphis, TN
  • Cantor Jennifer Frost, B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL

Shabbat morning- 10:00 A.M.–12:30 P.M. Morning T’filah

  • Sh’lichei Tzibur–Service Leaders Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ; Cantor Martha Novick, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ;Rabbi Douglas Sagal, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ.
  • Torah Reader: Adina Yoffie, Genesis 37:1 – 11
  • Aliyah 1: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie and his family
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Charles Kroloff
  • Aliyah 2: Campaign for Youth Engagement
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Rick Jacobs
  • Aliyah 3: New Officers/Oversight Committee
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Eric H. Yoffie
  • Haftarah: Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, Rabbi Jonathan Stein
  • PRESIDENTIAL SERMON: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Union for Reform Judaism


Sunday morning- 8:45–10:30 A.M. Closing Plenary

  • Musical Presentation:Noah Aronson
  • Incoming Chairman’s Address:
  • Introduction:Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President,Union for Reform Judaism
  • Remarks: Stephen Sacks, Chairman-elect, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD
  • A New Vision for a New Era Presentation: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism, and members of the Transition Team
  • Words of Blessing: Rabbi Eric H. YoffieRabbi David EllensonRabbi Steven FoxCantor Susan Caro
  • 2011 Biennial Retrospective
  • Looking Ahead to San Diego 2013
  • Tefilat Haderech (Traveler’s Prayer): Noah Aronson
  • Adjournment: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees