June 12, 2012, New York, NY -- Rabbi
Rick Jacobs was installed last Saturday (June 9th) as the fourth
president of the Union
for Reform Judaism (URJ), the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish
Movement -- the largest Jewish denomination in North America.
installation service was held at Brooklyn's historic Congregation Beth Elohim
(CBE), a 151 year-old Reform synagogue which, in recent years, has
emerged as an innovative and dynamic center of worship, learning and activity
for its members and for the larger Brooklyn community. CBE exemplifies
what Rabbi Jacobs has set out as his three most important goals for the Reform
Movement: expanding our reach, engaging our youth and catalyzing congregational
his installation sermon, Rabbi Jacobs told worshipers, "From the
shoulders of our ancestors, we can--and must--see both the past and the promise
of the future... Our observance and our rituals are always evolving. This is
the essence of our Reform Judaism, as individuals find their path to their
covenant with God. Today, we embrace the best of tradition and modernity,
science and spirituality. Ours is the Judaism of autonomy, inclusiveness,
creativity, passion, relevance and depth."
congregation of more than 500 people, including leaders from the URJ, the
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Central Conference of
American Rabbis and dozens of Reform affiliates attended the vibrant and
on Shabbat afternoon, the service included traditional and contemporary
prayers, a gospel choir, group movement and performances by musicians Josh
Nelson and Michelle Citrin. In a fitting tribute to the legacy of
the URJ, the service was led by Rabbi Judith Schindler (daughter of the late
URJ President Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler) and Cantor/Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.
choreographer Liz Lerman, a personal friend of Rabbi Jacobs' remarked that,
"Being a contemporary Jew is a daily act of creation" and then led
the congregation in slow, rhythmic movements signifying the importance of
remembering our past and moving forward.
Greater Centennial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Mass Choir of Mt. Vernon,
NY, neighbors of Westchester Reform Temple, inspired congregants with their
rousing rendition of "Total Praise." Their pastor Reverend
Darin Moore, described the warmth he felt upon meeting Rabbi Jacobs, and
emphasized the importance of looking forward, saying "God never opens a
Red Sea for anybody going back to Egypt."
Torah service began with an intergenerational procession of former chairs of
the URJ Board of Trustees, accompanied by teen members of the North American
Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY). The Torah portion was chanted by
incoming NFTY President Evan Traylor.
emotional highpoint of the service was the passing of the Torah scroll from
outgoing President Rabbi Eric Yoffie to Rabbi Jacobs. Yoffie, who served
as URJ president for 16 years and is one of the most influential voices in American
Jewish life, addressed Jacobs, saying "It has been my honor to lead and
serve this community, and it is my honor now to pass the mantle of leadership
to you... To carry out this task, you will need courage, and boldness, and love
of Torah. You will need unending patience. You will need an ability to heal and
willingness to fight--for justice and the progressive values that Reform Jews
hold dear. And as we all know, you possess all of these qualities in