THE UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM TO MEET IN HOUSTON TO PASS POLICY RESOLUTIONS, UNVEIL NEW INITIATIVES, STUDY AND WORSHIP TOGETHER
NEW YORK Delegates from across the continent will arrive in Houston November 1620 for the 68th Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest and fastest growing organization in North American Judaism.
This Biennial, which promises to be one of the best ever, is an opportunity for lay leaders of the Movement's more than 900 congregations to learn practical skills in one of more than 160 workshops; debate resolutions that will determine the future direction of the Movement; be inspired by prominent speakers; study with leading scholars, and spend a life-transforming Shabbat worshiping in a congregation of 5,000 people. Leading entertainers will perform every evening and attendees will 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.
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. More than 60 new congregations joined the Union in the past decade, including Temple Beth Tikvah in Houston. The Union attributes this growth to Reform Judaism's leadership in issues of social justice and civil liberties; the full equality of women; its outreach to interfaith families who wish to explore and embrace the richness of Judaism; and its willingness to change.
Rabbi David Lyon, senior Rabbi at Houstons Temple Beth Israel, calls the Biennial transforming.
It is exhilarating to connect, to learn, to experience and to feel the energy and rhythm of the Reform Movement in North America, said Lyon. Suddenly, a week of workshops, worship with thousands of Reform Jews on Shabbat, and opportunities to discover what is happening in other Reform congregations, transforms one's own ideas and raises one's expectations for personal and communal Judaism at home and in the congregation.
Sue Wiseman of Congregation Jewish Community North has attended several Biennials and in her words, loved each one!
The Biennial is fun, and it reinforces my Judaism, said Wiseman. Living in a community where the Jewish population is such a small minority, it feels good to be with so many people with whom I share a heritage and a religion.
The Biennial convention has changed considerably since it was last held in Houston in 1983. Then it fit in the Westin Galleria, but average attendance has tripled over the past 20 years and so this years convention will be in the George R. Brown Convention Center.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly 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. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.