June 3, 2013, New York, NY New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) Board of Trustees this past week. A long-time member of Reform congregation Temple Emanu-El in New York City, the mayor applauded the Reform Movement's leadership on immigration reform, gun control and marriage equality. "The tide of public opinion is turning around [these issues]," he said. "The Reform Movement deserves an enormous amount of credit for this."
Mayor Bloomberg's address was one of the many highlights of the meeting of the URJ Board of Trustees and Oversight Committee. Working on behalf of the URJ's nearly 900 Reform congregations, these two entities collaborate with URJ professionals to set priorities, examine trends and determine how to best serve member congregations.
"The board meeting was a successful event on all levels," said URJ Board of Trustees Chair Steve Sacks, "We were briefed on the major initiatives that URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs implemented in his first year and were delighted to hear about how much progress has been made to date."
Members were briefed on Rabbi Jacobs' key projects including the Communities of Practice, Knowledge Network and youth engagement. Participants also heard about plans for the upcoming 2013 URJ Biennial, which will take place December 11-15 in San Diego, CA.
The board also conducted official business, including the passage of the FY 2013 budget and discussion of overhauling URJ's financial support system.
Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, briefed Oversight Committee members on important developments in the fight for greater religious pluralism in Israel. Rabbi Jacobs also discussed these issues with the board.
"Anat and our partners in Israel are achieving real change in the fight for religious pluralism," Rabbi Jacobs said. "I believe we are at a tipping point and will see major breakthroughs in the next few months. Just this week, we saw a victory with regard to equal governmental funding for Reform rabbis."
ARZA, the Israel voice of the Reform Movement in the United States, announced that their new president, Joshua Weinberg, will take the helm of the organization on September 1. Weinberg will receive rabbinic ordination from HUC-JIR in Israel this November.
Evan Traylor, outgoing president of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), discussed recent developments and challenges within NFTY as the 7,000-member youth group enters its 75th year. Traylor was elected as the first teen to become a full member of the North American Board of Trustees. Chairman Sacks said of this historic decision, "The URJ Board is saying that NFTY's voice is important, not just because our constitution requires it, but because we really do want to hear the voices of our teens represented in the Movement's governing body."
Traylor also introduced NFTY's incoming president, Andrew Keene. A native of Milwaukee, WI, Keene will begin his presidency by taking a "gap year" before starting college at Drexel University in the fall of 2014. During that year, Keene will work at URJ Kutz Camp and at NFTY's Chicago office, in addition to service as an intern at Milwaukee's Congregation Sinai. Keene will also help lead various NFTY and URJ events.
Musician Josh Nelson led the board members in a unique Friday evening Warehouse Shabbat experience in Brooklyn and Saturday morning services were held at HUC-JIR's New York campus, under the expert leadership of student clergy.
The board meeting concluded with the Women of Reform Judaism's Centennial Symposium, where participants heard from noted Jewish historian Dr. Jonathan Sarna and other renowned scholars about the inspirational history and achievements of Reform Jewish women.
"The symposium revealed how Reform Jewish women reshaped the Jewish community and Jewish tradition, long before women were ordained," Rabbi Jacobs said. "The event was truly inspirational."