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Proud to be a Reform Jew: Reflections on the 2017 Biennial

Posted on January 2, 2018 by Rabbi Jim Bennett

I am proud to be a part of the Reform Movement! Early in December, I had the privilege of joining with nearly 6,000 other Reform Jews at the Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), held in Boston, Massachusetts. Every time I attend a biennial or some other gathering of our movement, I am reminded of the power of Reform Judaism. We are part of the largest movement of Jews in North America, and the most progressive and exciting expression of our Jewish values in history! Joining with the leadership of the URJ; clergy, staff and lay leaders from nearly every Reform Congregation in North America; and Reform Jews from Israel and across the globe is an invigorating experience. But it is not just the excitement of praying and learning and interacting with so many fellow Reform Jews that is encouraging. I find the creativity and excitement of our Reform Jewish values to be a source of great pride and self-esteem. We have every right to be proud – our movement literally leads the way in every facet of Jewish life today. From the leaders and members of the Union for Reform Judaism comes the impetus for exploring new and challenging ways to pray and worship, study and learn, and act to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

The Shaare Emeth delegation was rightly proud to represent our Congregation, one of the leading communities in the URJ. We were honored to receive the prestigious Fain Award for Social Justice programming, recognizing the leadership of our Congregation in our work with the International Institute in welcoming refugees into our community. Similarly, we were honored as an Exemplary Congregation for our Inclusive Religious School and Congregational program that leads the way in addressing the needs of every child. We are rightly viewed by the leadership of our movement as a leading Reform Congregation, and this recognition should be a source of pride for each of us. Our staff, lay leadership and membership have earned the respect of our fellow Reform Jews across the country. Mazel Tov!

I am proud of the leaders of our movement as well for courageously addressing the issues of our day, among them the status of Jerusalem. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the URJ, was courageous to issue a statement regarding Jerusalem in response to President Trump. The URJ response correctly acknowledged our support for the premise “that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process,” and also urged the President “to do everything in his power to move forward with efforts to bring true peace to the region and take no unilateral steps that will make that dream more distant.”

Being a Reform Jew takes courage and commitment. I look forward to our continued participation in the work of our movement and our people.

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