Having read Gabe Kahn’s Garden State of Mind, I am compelled to offer another viewpoint — that of a member of the demographic for whom biennial is planned (“Stranger in a Friendly Land,” Dec. 26). I attended as a Reform member of Temple Shalom of Aberdeen.
The URJ Biennial, a gathering of 6,000 from North America’s most populated Jewish movement, is an uplifting, inspirational, educational, and meaningful experience.
I am always awestruck by the sound of thousands of Reform Jews chanting together during services. I feel the power of those voices not only as they pray but as they discuss and debate issues of our time, determine paths for social justice work, and listen intently to prominent speakers during plenary sessions.
Thanks to the URJ Biennial, I have heard speeches from notable politicians including Pres. Barack Obama, voted on important resolutions to steer the social justice work of the Religious Action Center, learned with and from brilliant minds in the Reform movement, and had the opportunity to unpack that experience and make important URJ initiatives a reality in New Jersey with my rabbi, Rabbi Laurence Malinger.
This year, I had the great pleasure of attending with my son Michael, 25, who expressed an interest in experiencing what he grew up hearing about from his mom. We chose from the long list of learning sessions, sat together during inspirational and innovative worship, and attended the largest Shabbat dinner and services anywhere. Michael entered with no expectations other than having a new experience with his mom and left knowing that he needs to find a Reform temple where he lives in Brooklyn and get more involved in the URJ’s social justice work. After all, isn’t it the point of the URJ Biennial to inspire us to remain affiliated, and find ways to bring civil rights, education, and tolerance to the world?
Mr. Kahn, no one at the biennial is required to believe as the speakers, presenters, or URJ leadership do. Reform Judaism is centered around informed choice — come, learn, and decide what you believe and support. You will be no less accepted for your opinions and that, in my humble opinion, is the ultimate beauty of Reform Judaism and the URJ Biennial Convention.