Beth Hillel Celebrates Judaism At URJ Biennial, Awaits Obama
Israel News Agency
D.C. --- December 14, 2011 .... They will be traveling over 350
miles from Greater Hartford, Connecticut to Washington, D.C. to
join over 6,000 Jews for a five day magical mystery Jewish tour.
A colorful trek which will take them from studying Torah to learning
how to Blog and use Facebook to develop their synagogues. Listening
to a wide variety of respected speakers from Natan Sharansky,
Israel Minister of Defense Ehud Barak to Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie,
president of the Union for Reform Judaism and US President Barack
what are we to make of these Reform Jews?
a Conservative Jew who grew up in the US and has lived in Israel
for over 25 years, I can say that Reform Judaism has received
a bad rap. Much of the negativity stems from the Orthodox and
Ultra Orthodox in Israel who do not recognize Reform Judaism as
a legitimate Jewish entity. But who is to judge who is a Jew and
who is not? If one is born a Jew or converts to Judaism they are
Jewish. The Nazis had no problem detecting who was Jewish. They
did not care if you prayed every day or hardly recognized a single
the little exposure I have had to Reform Judaism I can only say
two things. These are Jews who practice Judaism. These are caring
and tolerant people who open their minds and hearts to almost
every issue from prayer, marriage and music to business, social
justice and humanity and decide for themselves if it is for them.
Biennial is an opportunity for us to live Jewishly without other
distractions, to build community, to connect with others who,
like us, think they are the only person in the world who understands
their perspective on what Jewish faith means in a small congregation,"
says Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman of Temple Beth Hillel. A Rabbi who
gives beyond his own community in Connecticut and hands out food
and blankets to the poor in Haiti and makes sure that trees are
planted in Israel.
"To see what the newest insights are, to listen to the cries
which are ringing out and to find ways of responding to them,
to find out how our ancient truths are even more valuable in the
21st Century and to be moved."
inspiration to join other Reform Jews in the URJ Biennial Convention
is shared by many.
URJ Biennial is
a gathering that is held in a different city in the US every other
year, where Reform Jews from across North America learn, pray,
share ideas and make decisions about the policies of the Jewish
The Biennial was created for all Reform Jews from URJ affiliated
congregations including lay leaders and professionals, youth,
congregants, clergy, scholars, affiliates, exhibitors, entertainers
and musicians. It is the largest Jewish gathering in North America,
and brings together nearly 5,000 people from more than 500 congregations
and 14 countries.
asked Ann Hughes, president of Temple Beth Hillel why she is going
to the Biennial?
retreat was planned to build community and bring back knowledge
to set a course for TBH's next 50 years, said Hughes. We have
36 members of our congregation going to the Biennial. We have
a strong vested commitment to the goals of the retreat and on
a personal level, I am seeking learning and connection.
"To me, Judaism means actively striving individually and
as a community to see God's image in each other's eyes and God's
hand in the world around us. I think of Reform Judaism as a tree
with tradition as its roots, God, Torah and Israel as its trunk
and branches that reach out in new directions. We have many issues
before us as we leave for Washington. Loss of identity due to
over assimilation, fragmentation of the community into movements
and the high cost of synagogue affiliation. We hope to learn,
share and find solutions about these and many other issues at
Ward of Temple Beth Hillel it was her son who inspired her to
join other Jews in D.C.
utter astonishment, my 14-year-old son told me he wanted to go,"
said Ward. "So it is my son's interest along with so many
recommendations from friends and family members who have told
me that is is an unbelievable experience. The Friday and Saturday
Shabbat services are supposed to be amazing. My sister told me
not to miss the Havdalah service. I'm looking forward to going
together with such a large and dedicated group from TBH. It will
surely be a very special bonding experience."
I was going to the Biennial because I've never been before and
thought it would be a good experience," said Temple Beth
Hillel member Stefanie MacGregor. "However, in light of recent
events in my personal life it has taken on a new meaning for me.
One I hope of spiritual enlightening and renewed faith."
And for Rebecca
McCann of Beth Hillel it is a mission to re-new energy for her
attended the last Biennial in Toronto, I came away from there
with a tremendous feeling of community," said McCann. "Three
other members and I developed the Temple Beth Hillel Jubilee Steering
Committee and worked for the past 2 years making our synagogue's
Jubilee year very special. It's important to bring that kind of
energy back to others at our synagogue to help ensure continued
growth and community expansion."
There is no
doubt that there will be plenty to see and do at the URJ Biennial.
The only real question on this writer's mind is Barack Obama -
the key speaker who will address American Jewry through the URJ
Biennial on Friday.
be reaching out for Jewish votes and if so will he have a change
of heart on dividing the historic and biblical Jewish capital
of Jerusalem? Will he state that Israel has a need for secure
borders which transcends the 1967 borders, borders that would
create security from another Islamic Jihad Gaza on the West Bank.
Will Obama admit that it is the Palestinians, the PA who are destroying
the peace process by refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish
state, by refusing to sit down and engage in direct talks?
As for the
Reform Jews who are now providing an election platform for US
President Barack Obama, will they embrace all that he says or
will they have the courage to speak up for the young children
of Sderot and for thousands of other Jews who spend their nights
in cold air raid shelters as Hamas fires rockets from Gaza at
their homes and schools?
Jews who are to enjoy and embrace one another in Washington, D.C.
will be on the front line with those Jews in Ashkelon, Ashdod,
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra'anana, Neve Ativ, Eilat and Haifa. Will
they stand up for the security and future of Israel or remain
It is going
to be an interesting URJ Biennial.
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