4,500 REFORM JEWS TO MEET IN MINNEAPOLIS TO PASS POLICY RESOLUTIONS, CHANGE NAME, UNVEIL NEW INITIATIVES
NEW YORK - The largest and fastest growing organization in North American Judaism, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), representing more than 900 congregations and 1.5 million Reform Jews - will meet for its Biennial Convention in Minneapolis, November 5-9, 2003 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
While the latest Jewish population survey suggests a steady decline in the Jewish population as a whole and a decrease in synagogue affiliation, the Reform Movement continues to experience an increase in membership, with more than 60 new congregations formed in the past decade. The UAHC attributes this growth to the Reform Judaism's willingness to change, its leadership in issues of social justice, civil liberties, and the full equality of women, and its outreach to interfaith families who wish to explore and embrace the richness of Judaism.
A highlight of the 2003 Biennial Convention will come on Friday morning, when the assembled delegates debate a proposal to change the name of the venerable organization to the Union for Reform Judaism. Its current name was established in 1873 when the Union was founded by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise.
The Biennial convention is an opportunity for lay leaders of the Movement's congregations to learn practical skills in one of more than 160 workshops; debate resolutions that will determine the future direction of the Movement; hear from prominent speakers; study with leading scholars, spend a life-transforming Shabbat worshiping in a congregation of 4,500 people and hear Rabbi Eric Yoffie's vision for the movement.
Leading entertainers will perform every evening, with a concert by artist Debbie Friedman scheduled for Saturday evening. Attendees will also have the opportunity to shop at the largest exhibit of Jewish art, crafts, and ritual items ever assembled, with more than 200 exhibitors participating in this year's show, and open to the public on Sunday, November 9.
Other highlights of the convention include:
Thursday, November 6
The Movement confers the Eisendrath Bearer of Light Awards to outgoing President of Naral Pro-Choice America, Kate Michelman, and to critically acclaimed Israeli novelist and commentator, Amos Oz. Both will address the delegates.
Morning forums on The Synagogue and the North American Jewish Future; Living and Learning: Rethinking Jewish Education; Church, State and Fundamental Freedoms and Beyond the Worship Wars: Worship Change Four Years Later.
An address by Knesset member Yosef Paritzky, Israeli Minister for National Infrastructure.
Friday, November 7
Vote on resolution to change the name of the UAHC to the Union for Reform Judaism
Consideration of resolutions on poverty in the United States; support for stem cell research; international religious freedom; awareness of African-American Heritage and the history of slavery; human rights in Cuba and the medicinal use of marijuana.
The presentation of the first annual Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction to Dara Horn, author of In the Image.
Saturday, November 8
Shabbat worship, at which Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the UAHC, will unveil the major initiatives that the Movement will undertake in the coming years.
As always, the implications for the movement will be significant. Since his election to the presidency seven years ago, Rabbi Yoffie has called for greater Jewish literacy, reinvigorated Reform worship, and brought new substance and vitality to religious school education.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. UAHC services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.