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September 5, 2015 | 21st Elul 5775

Rabbi Rick Jacobs Installed as President of the Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Jacobs: "Today, we embrace the best of tradition and modernity, science and spirituality. Ours is the Judaism of autonomy, inclusiveness, creativity, passion, relevance and depth."

Annette Powers
Office: 212.650.4154 | Cell: 917.225.4857

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.

The 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 change. 

In 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."

A 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 creative ceremony.

Held 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.

Renowned 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.

The 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."

The 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.

The 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 abundance."


Tadd Schwab

June 22, 2012
02:56 PM


What an outstanding event!!! The Choir, the Rabbi's, and the new NFTY Pres reading Torah....outstanding...


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