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Movement: Our Family Reunion
by Elliott Kleinman

BiennielEvery two years, some 4000 Reform Jews from 20+ countries gather in a different North American city to delight in the company of old friends, to make new friends, to gain knowledge, to pray, and to celebrate as one community.

Together, the URJ and WRJ Biennials become an event like no other: Reform Judaism’s family reunion.

At this worldwide reunion, we see long-time friends, hug and kiss and talk and laugh and catch up on each other’s lives—and we make new friends and feel as if we’ve known them forever…. a treasurer of one of the Union’s largest congregations and a treasurer of a 60-family congregation sit down in a hallway, discuss their budgeting process, and realize how much they have in common and how useful their exchange has been…. an individual from Alaska and one from Maine get together to propel a social action resolution that drives Reform Movement policy for years to come…. we each discover, individually and as a Movement, what it means to be a Reform Jew on the world stage…. we pray together as a congregation—4,000+ Jews in one room on Friday night—a scale so grand that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts resound with awe…. we exchange ideas, gain skills, and reimagine our personal and communal Jewish lives in hallway conversations as much as in conference rooms…. we sing Jewish songs with young people, dance with arms raised and eyes full of joy…and we feel confident the future of Judaism is sure….

What is different at the Biennial is not the “stuff we do,” no matter how well we do it. It’s the feeling.

Don’t miss out on the feeling of our big little family reunion. Join us: Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and Convention Center, Potomac, Maryland, December 14-18,

Rabbi Elliott Kleinman is the URJ Chief Program Officer.

Biennial Highlights

Pay tribute to Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie for his 16 years of innovative service to the Reform Movement

Hear from the URJ’s next president , Rabbi Richard Jacobs, who will take office in 2012

Participate in a rousing tribute to Debbie Friedman

Sing with the greatest musicians in the Jewish world

Attend the world’s largest Shabbat dinner, 4,000+ delegates eating and connecting in one room

Learn at 140+ workshops; at HUC-JIR scholar-in-residence sessions with professors Isa Aron, Jonathan Cohen, Larry Hoffman and Marc Rosenstein; and at Shabbat luncheon sessions with authors Deborah Lipstadt, Jennifer Griffin, Judith Shulevitz and others

Consult with URJ and other professionals at the Consultation Area and Reform Resource Mall

Honor Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure; Rabbi Richard Hirsch, founding director of the RAC; and attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, who argued on opposite sides of the Gore vs. Bush Supreme Court Case, but later joined forces to oppose Proposition 8

Go “high-tech” with preconvention networking with others who’ve signed up for the same workshops; use smart phones and ipads to map out a personal daily schedule; stream selected events; watch online videos; participate via social media

Shore up technological skills at the first-ever technology learning lounge, where friendly techies will teach how to use your devices at the convention

Acquire new ideas, temple resources and gifts at the Exhibit Hall, where 150 companies will showcase Judaica, educational materials, music, synagogue support options and more

Vote on resolutions that help set the Movement’s agenda

Share more events with Women of Reform Judaism; plus both groups’ conventions are being held in the same hotel. The WRJ’s 48th Assembly theme, “Many Dreams, One Vision,” based on that week’s Torah portion about prophetic dreams, expresses how members with different dreams come together to coalesce a vision of sisterhood.

Celebrate the RAC’s 50th anniversary of transformative social justice work


Union for Reform Judaism.