Toronto, November 7, 2009 Delivering his much-anticipated Shabbat morning sermon to some 3,500 attendees at the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) Biennial assembly in Toronto, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, URJ President, encouraged Reform Jews across North America to struggle with the meaning of Jewish and ethical eating and to embrace technology as a vital means of congregational growth.
Rabbi Yoffie emphasized the traditional importance of shared
meals in creating and sustaining purposeful Jewish community, at the same time
as he lamented the "gobble, gulp, and go" consumption mentality prevalent
throughout North America. He urged
attendees to consider carefully the way they view and consume their food and
how those perceptions can advance Reform Jewish values.
"Reform Jews are ethically aware, ecologically responsible, and sensitive to
matters of physical and spiritual health," he said. "We know that our Jewish
tradition speaks to these issues, and that our young people care about them. At
such times, Reform Judaism does not remain silent.
Though he said he expects no Movement-wide consensus about this or about what
may or may not appear on synagogue menus and in synagogue kitchens, he asked
synagogue leaders to formulate "carefully, thoughtfully, Jewishly" what they
will or will not eat in communal spaces. He suggested that some areas of consideration
might include healthy ingredients, sustainable agriculture, economic fairness
for farm workers, and a decrease in the consumption of red meat.
The second major pillar of Rabbi Yoffie's sermon outlined
the importance of embracing evolving technology as a means of strengthening and
building the Jewish community. He encouraged synagogues to start congregational
blogs, experiment with web streaming and online services, and provide online
spaces for young people to debate the topics that most appeal to them and their
To aid this transition, Rabbi Yoffie announced that the URJ will offer online
training to prepare synagogue volunteers to launch, maintain and strengthen
congregations' online presence. "We need to ask our members to share their
personal stories and Jewish memories. We
need to encourage hotly debated, multi-voiced, civil discussions on synagogue
and local issues, and on Israel and national
issues." The idea, he said, "is not just to serve our members but to engage
them, not only to inform but also to inspire and broaden community."
Rabbi Yoffie closed his sermon with remarks on Israel
and impressed upon attendees the danger posed by a nuclear Iran.
"What Israel needs from us now is
unconditional support," he said. He also
made clear that "unconditional support is not the same as uncritical support,"
and was critical of settlement growth in the heart of the West Bank and Israel's failure to recognize Reform Judaism as equal
under its laws. "Willingly, lovingly, joyfully, we engage in the struggle to
realize Israel's most cherished ideals," he
On the subject of Iran Yoffie encouraged Reform Jews to call
upon the governments of Canada and the United States to impose tough economic sanctions if Iran fails to abandon its nuclear program.