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August 31, 2015 | 16th Elul 5775

Rabbi Eric Yoffie Encourages Reform Jews to Explore Ethical Eating and to Harness New Technologies to Build Community

Contact: Toni Kamins | 212.650.4000

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.

URJ BiennialRabbi 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 Jewish journeys. 

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 said.

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.

The full text of Rabbi Yoffie's sermon is at

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