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URJ Biennial
President Barack Obama

President Barack ObamaBarack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton's army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.

After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.

President Obama's years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world's most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.

He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10.

Rep. Eric Cantor
House Majority Leader

Eric CantorHouse Majority Leader Eric Cantor has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001, holding the same congressional seat once held by James Madison. In the wake of the 2010 midterm elections, Eric was elected by his colleagues in the House to serve as the Majority Leader for the 112th Congress.

A Richmond, Virginia lawyer and former state legislator, Cantor has moved quickly up the House leadership ladder since his first election in 2000. Tapped as the Chief Deputy Whip after only one term, he became the Republican Whip (the second-ranking position for his party in the House) after the 2008 election.

Majority Leader Cantor co-authored the New York Times best-selling book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, with Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

Rep. Cantor is a lifelong resident of the Richmond area, where he got his start in politics as a driver for his predecessor Congressman Tom Bliley. He received his law degree from The College of William and Mary and his master's degree from Columbia University in New York.

Rep. Cantor and his wife, Diana, reside in Richmond, Virginia. They have three children: Evan, a fourth year student at The University of Virginia; Jenna, a sophomore at the University of Michigan; and Michael, a senior at Deep Run High School in Henrico County.
Ehud Barak
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense

Ehud BarakEhud Barak, one of Israeli’s most honored soldiers and most distinguished political figures, is currently the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

Ehud Barak was born in 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon. He joined the Israel Defense Forces in 1959 and served as a soldier and commander of an elite unit, as well as in various other command positions including Tank Brigade Commander and Armored Division Commander. Barak also served in General Staff positions, including Head of the IDF Intelligence Branch. During the 1967 Six Day War, Barak served as a reconnaissance group commander, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War as a tank battalion commander on the southern front in Sinai. In January 1982, he was appointed Head of the IDF Planning Branch and promoted to Major General. During the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" operation, Major General Barak served as Deputy Commander of the Israeli force in Lebanon.

In April 1983, Barak was appointed Head of the Intelligence Branch at the IDF General Headquarters. In January 1986, he was appointed Commander of the IDF Central Command, and in May 1987 was appointed Deputy Chief-of-Staff. In April 1991, he assumed the post of the 14th Chief of the General Staff and was promoted to the rank of Lt. General, the highest in the Israeli military.

He served as Minister of the Interior from July-November 1995 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 1995 until June 1996.

Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel in May 1999, and served until March 2001, also serving as Defense Minister.

He is married and the father of three children.
Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker
Founder and CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Nancy G. BrinkerAmbassador Nancy G. Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything possible to raise awareness about the then-stigmatized illness. Nearly 20 years after founding Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Brinker is widely regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® is the world's largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer, and Brinker's creative, cause-related marketing has enabled business and individuals worldwide to participate in the fight against breast cancer. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored Brinker with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. The same year, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations' World Health Organization.

Learn more about Nancy Brinker's tireless work fighting breast cancer, and visit Susan G. Komen for the Cure® to get involved.

 Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Nancy Brinker:
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Rabbi Richard Hirsch

Rabbi Richard HirschRabbi Richard Hirsch is widely recognized as one of the preeminent voices for strengthening ties between Reform Judaism and the Zionist movement. Appointed in 1962 by Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath to direct the newly-formed Religious Action Center, Hirsch served as director of the RAC until 1973, when he moved to Israel and became executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the international arm of the Reform Movement. He is credited with influencing the organization's decision to relocate its headquarters to Israel, solidifying the commitment of Progressive Judaism and its adherents to Israel and the Zionist endeavor. He became a major figure in Zionist politics, serving as chairman of the Zionist General Council. In 2010, Rabbi Hirsch became the first Reform rabbi to receive the honor of lighting a torch during Israel's Independence Day ceremony. Rabbi Hirsch is the author of six books, including For the Sake of Zion, which traces Rabbi Hirsch's efforts to build and support Progressive Judaism in Israel and to integrate Reform Judaism into the institutions of the Zionist Movement.

Learn more about Rabbi Richard Hirsch's commitment to Zionism and the Reform Movement.

Rabbi Richard Jacobs
President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Rick JacobsRabbi Richard Jacobs has spent the last 20 years serving as the dynamic, visionary spiritual leader at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York. Ordained in 1982 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York, rabbi Jacobs spent nine years at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and in 2007 received his Doctorate of Divinity.  In addition to his congregational work, he is a currently senior rabbinic fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and served on the boards of a number of Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish World Service, UJA-Federation of New York and the New Israel Fund.

A true product of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Jacobs was a member of the URJ Board of Trustees from 1994-1998 and before that served on the editorial board of Reform Judaism magazine, the Joint Commission on Religious Living and the Joint Commission on Worship. He is also a former member of the board of trustees and the executive committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and has served as a member of the boards of ARZA and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. In 2000, he was named the recipient of ARZA's International Humanitarian Award for his dedication to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Reform Movement in North America.

Learn more about Rabbi Jacobs and his vision for the future of the Reform Movement.

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William Kristol
FOX News Political Contributor

William KristolWilliam Kristol is a political contributor for the FOX News Channel (FNC) and serves as a regular contributor to "Special Report with Brit Hume," the highest rated political program on cable television.

Kristol serves as editor and publisher of the Washington, D.C.-based political magazine, The Weekly Standard. Widely recognized as one of the nation's leading political analysts and commentators, Kristol regularly appears on all the major television public affairs shows.

Kristol served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the Bush administration and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Ronald Reagan. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Before starting The Weekly Standard in 1995, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, where he helped shape the strategy that produced the 1994 Republican congressional victory.

Dr. Wendy Mogel
Clinical Psychologist and Author

Dr. Wendy MogelDr. Wendy Mogel is an internationally acclaimed clinical psychologist, parenting expert and the author of the bestselling parenting books The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus. A popular keynote speaker, Dr. Mogel lectures widely at conferences and schools, contributes articles to professional publications, and makes guest appearances on radio shows and on television programs about the dangers of overprotection, overindulgence and overscheduling of children. Dr. Mogel serves on numerous boards, including the Center for Early Education and the scientific advisory board of Challenge Success, a program of the Stanford University School of Education. 

Learn more about Dr. Wendy Mogel, listen to her parenting podcasts, and download discussion guides for her acclaimed books.

Ted Olson and David Boies

Olson and BoiesTheodore "Ted" Olson and David Boies are an unlikely partisan pair – a feisty Republican and a fiery Democrat, respectively – who came together to represent plaintiffs challenging California's state ban on gay marriage on the grounds that it violated the federal constitution. Boies and Olson had been in the courtroom together in the past, but only on opposing sides: In 2000, Olson represented President George W. Bush and Boies represented Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the Bush v. Gore election challenge. But when the California Supreme Court upheld "Prop 8," a state ban on same-sex marriage, these seemingly ideological opposites together filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of two gay couples, arguing that the marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process. In 2010, Time magazine named the pair among the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Read more about Ted Olson and David Boies' work together opposing Proposition 8.

David Boies is the chairman of Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP and has, in the past, served as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of both the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee and Senate Judiciary Committee. Nationally recognized for his prowess in the courtroom, Boies has been involved in a number of influential and high-profile cases. In 1986, representing the Democratic National Committee, Boies won a permanent injunction against the Republican National Committee targeting minority districts with efforts to challenge voter qualifications. In 1998-2000, he served as Special Trial Counsel for the United States Department of Justice in its antitrust suit against Microsoft. Boies also served as the lead counsel for former Vice-President Al Gore in connection with litigation relating to the 2000 election Florida vote count. Most recently, he represented plaintiffs in California suing to enjoin the state's ban on gay marriage as a violation of the federal constitution. In 2010, Time Magazine named Boies on of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Learn more about David Boies and the cases he has worked on representing clients like Napster, the NFL and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Theodore "Ted" Olson served as United States Solicitor General under President George W. Bush and was Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. These intervals aside, he has been a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher since 1965 and currently serves as partner and a member of the firm's Executive Committee. Selected by Time magazine as one of 2010's Most Influential People in the World, Olson is one of the nation's premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates.  He has argued 58 cases in the Supreme Court, including the two Bush v. Gore cases arising out of the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Olson's practice is concentrated on appellate and constitutional law, federal legislation, media and commercial disputes. 

Learn more about Ted Olson and the many cases he has worked on throughout his extensive law career.

Natan Sharansky
Chairman, Jewish Agency for Israel

Natan SharanskyAfter nine years of imprisonment in the Former Soviet Union for collaborating with the CIA, and shortly after his arrival to Israel, Natan Sharansky formed together with other former Refuseniks and Aliya (immigration to Israel) advocates the Soviet Jewry Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new Israelis and educating the public about absorption issues.

From 1990 to 1996 Mr. Sharansky served as Associate Editor of The Jerusalem Report and in 1994 co-founded Peace Watch – an independent non-partisan group committed to monitoring the compliance to agreements signed by Israel and the PLO.

In 1996, he founded the political party Yisrael B'Aliya which means both "Israel on the Rise" and "Israel for Immigration." From 1996-2005 Sharansky served as Minister as well as Deputy Prime Minister in four successive Israeli governments. In November 2006 he resigned from the Israeli Knesset and assumed the position of Chairman of the newly established Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is also the Chairman of One Jerusalem and Beth Hatefutsoth, the Jewish Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. In June 2009, Natan Sharansky was elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Natan Sharansky was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. He has continued to lead human rights efforts both through his writings as well as public activities.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President, Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Eric YoffieRabbi Eric H. Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Among the hallmarks of his 15-year tenure are initiatives to enrich Torah study and adult literacy, religious education, worship, and camping within the Movement. His is a strong voice for social justice, interfaith dialogue, Israel advocacy and the rights of Israeli Reform Jews.

Rabbi Yoffie is the only rabbi to address a convocation at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. He is the only rabbi to address the annual convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was the first major Jewish leader to address the annual convention of Islamic Society of North America.

A magna cum laude graduate of Brandeis, Rabbi Yoffie was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Before joining the Union, he served congregations in Lynbrook, NY, and Durham, NC.

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