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Chairman's Perspective: Engaging Our Youth

Dana Bederson holds a
Torah scroll at her
bat mitzvah, June 2, 2012.

This past June I attended the bat mitzvah of Dana Bederson. Dana was adopted by her parents as a young baby from Kazakhstan and brought up by her family at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A product of our Movement, she attended religious school and services at Temple Shalom, sang in several temple choirs, and spent summers at URJ Camp Harlam in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania.

Dana and other members at Temple Shalom show us the diverse face of Reform Judaism today. At her bat mitzvah Dana explained it far better than I can: “One way...we appreciate and respect other people at Temple Shalom is recognizing that members of our congregation come from all over the world and that includes me....Generally, people are surprised when I sing Jewish songs, but not at Temple Shalom. Here there’s a whole rainbow of people with lots of good things to offer, and we’re all Jews and that’s pretty cool.”

Dana also had a wonderfully welcoming experience at Camp Harlam. “Camp also represents the diverse community of Reform Jews,” she told thecongregation. “My favorite part of camp is Shabbat, because you see everybody praying and singing and loving being Jewish.”

Photograph by
Marshall H. Cohen.

It is because of Dana’s Jewish experiences–at home, in a Reform congregation where she was nurtured by both clergy and congregants, and at a URJ camp—that she has become such a committed Jew.

And I can’t think of a better endorsement of what Reform Judaism, our congregations, and the Union for Reform Judaism are all about than to reflect on what Dana taught us at her bat mitzvah. We are a community where all are welcomed, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how they come to the congregation. All of us are equal before God.

Dana makes me optimistic about our next generation. As she said it, Reform Judaism—“that’s pretty cool.”

Helene joins me in wishing all of you a most happy and healthy New Year.

Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman

Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees


Union for Reform Judaism.