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April 18, 2014 | 18th Nisan 5774

Rabbi Eric Yoffie's remarks, Saturday evening session, Biennial 2011

National Harbor, MD
December 17, 2011

You know from my talk this morning what I think is important: 

  • A Judaism of inclusiveness - no Jew left behind.
  • A Judaism of hope -   As Reform Jews, we look at the Talmud, we see the pessimistic Shammai and the optimistic Hillel, and we point out that Hillel won.   And we take note of the fact that there are no Shammai houses on college campuses throughout North America.
  • And mostly this - a Judaism with the synagogue as its foundation.

Technology is wonderful and important, but you and I know that there are some questions that just cannot be answered by Google.

But they can, I believe, be answered by the synagogue, which-as I have said again and again-is the only place in the Jewish world that can always be counted on to care about the individual Jew.  it is the only place where everyone is unique and valued and a bearer of God's image, no matter who you are or how much money you have.  It is the only Jewish institution that is truly democratic and grassroots.  It is a place for prayer, and study, and education, but also a place that attends to the pain of its members, celebrates their successes, and provides the loving embrace of community.  No other Jewish institution does these things, and none will.

I have done what I have done because I believe in the synagogue.  And I believe that we need a movement that will enable synagogues to strengthen one another and that will bring the voice of modern, liberal Judaism to our members and to the communities in which we live.

It has been an honor for me to do this work; I have done it to the best of my ability, and always with the conviction that in this movement of strong wills and high ideals, you have a right to know what I think and where I stand. 

I thank all those who have made it possible:  my wife Amy above all, who sustains me, who holds me up, who gives me strength; my children Adina, Adam, and Matthew, who have taught me a great deal-and if I say one more word about them they will kill me; I thank the leaders of our Union, and the leaders of all our Reform institutions.

And I thank every Temple president, Temple board member, and synagogue member, all of whom, day in and day out, with very little thanks, do the nitty-gritty work of sending the message of ethical Judaism, spiritual seeking, and Jewish learning that is our gift to the world.

We do not lack for challenges, to be sure.  But this Reform community, and this assembly, have always inspired me, and whenever I have lagged, they have pumped the dynamism of Jewish life through my veins.  Every minute that I have spent as a leader of this great movement has been, for me, a zechut and a bracha - a privilege and a blessing.   

Thank you very much for this award, and for the opportunity to serve.

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