December 9, 2013, San Diego, CA — Nearly 5,000 Jewish leaders will gather this week for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) North American Biennial and Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) 49th Assembly and Centennial Celebration. Both conventions will take place Dec. 11-15, 2013, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
The URJ Biennial will bring together 5,000 Jewish lay leaders and professionals, youth, congregants, and clergy to learn, pray, share ideas, and make decisions about the future of Jewish life.
Highlights for the 2013 Biennial will include the largest Shabbat dinner in the world; inspiring Torah study sessions and 140 different learning sessions; the Biennial Music Festival – an evening of entertainment in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp District; world-class concerts from Josh Nelson, Dan Nichols, Julie Silver, Rick Recht, Billy Jonas and Neshama Carlebach; an exhibit hall with more than 150 vendors; and more.
Participants will hear from illustrious speakers including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; NY Times Food Editor Mark Bittman; Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and Chairwoman of the Women of the Wall Anat Hoffman; Member of Knesset Ruth Calderon; President of NARAL Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue; and many others.
“The Biennial marks a pivotal moment for the North American Jewish community” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “This gathering of thousands of Jewish leaders marks the beginning of a dialogue that will move us forward in our work to reshape and reimagine Jewish life for our community in tremendous ways,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “Some of the big ideas we will be discussing at the Biennial include the future of youth engagement in the Reform Movement, how to make our communities more accessible and welcoming to those who seek deep connections, what are the challenges and opportunities facing Reform congregations as a result of the findings of the recent Pew study, and much more. I look forward to learning from and with my colleagues and to discovering what new ideas stem from this convening.”
This is Rabbi Jacobs’ first Biennial as President. He will address the delegates on Thursday evening, where he will lay out his plan for the future of the Reform Movement.
The WRJ Assembly will be integrated with the Biennial programming, giving Biennial and Assembly participants opportunities to study, worship, learn, network and celebrate WRJ’s Centennial Anniversary together.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating this momentous occasion, the Centennial Anniversary of WRJ, with the more than 5,000 Jewish sisterhood, congregational, and youth leaders who are attending the Assembly and Biennial,” said Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, WRJ Executive Director. “We are excited to honor 100 years of Jewish women educating leaders, strengthening Jewish life, and repairing the world, and we look forward to working toward the next 100 years and beyond.”
New to the Biennial this year is the Kikar Biennial – The Biennial Town Square where participants will relax, network and have access to special events and workshops. Also new are intensive in-depth programs on a variety of topics, designed and taught by leaders such as Ari Weinzweig, Co-Founder, Zingerman’s Deli; Dr. Alan Morinis, Founder, Mussar Institute, and Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.
Shabbat at Biennial will include intimate gatherings and a service with URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl of Central Synagogue in New York and retiring HUC President Rabbi David Ellenson.
“We have an incredible five days planned,” said Biennial Chair Edward Burger (Fairfield, CT). “We have included some of the hallmarks of the Biennial experience, such as insightful learning sessions, top-notch speakers and an exhilarating and an uplifting communal Shabbat experience. But we have also added some exciting new programs, such as the intensives and the Biennial Music Festival. I’m eager to see how all our plans come to life and am certain participants will learn, grow and be inspired by their experiences in San Diego.”
All plenary sessions, including Shabbat evening and morning services, will be webcast on URJ.org/biennial and will be broadcast on JLTV. Follow the Biennial on Facebook and Twitter (use #Biennial13). Visit http://urj.org/biennial for more information.