NEW YORK "We are simply out of room," said Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Eric Yoffie in announcing that the URJ has been forced to close registration for its upcoming Biennial. "It's painful to have to turn people away, but we have no choice," Rabbi Yoffie noted.
The Biennial, which will be the largest Jewish conference in North America, will be held at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. The 2,000 room hotel, one of the biggest in the Washington area, is completely sold out, as are other nearby hotels.
The concurrent Women of Reform Judaism General Assembly and NFTY Leadership Assembly are also sold out.
"We planned for a large Biennial," said URJ Program Director Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, who is the lead staff person for the conference, "but this exceeds all of our expectations."
"Between the opportunity to honor URJ's outgoing President Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the excitement surrounding URJ's incoming President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and our outstanding roster of speakers, the demand has surpassed our already high expectations," Kleinman added.
Plenary speakers at the Biennial will include President Barack Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and best-selling author Dr. Wendy Mogel. Delegates will also honor, and hear from, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure; Attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, who came together across party lines to defend marriage equality; and Honorary Life President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Founding Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Richard Hirsch.
Other notable speakers will include TheWeekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky and Israel Religious Action Center Director Anat Hoffman.
"We are excited about the program, the entertainment and, of course, about our attendance," said Biennial Program Committee Chair Carole Sterling. "We are pleased that we will be partnering with JLTV to provide web based video on demand of all our plenary sessions, including several live webcasts," she added.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who will assume the helm of the URJ at the start of the new year, will speak to Biennial delegates Sunday morning December 18, outlining his vision for the future of the largest Jewish denomination in North America.