Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Inside Leadership
Rabbi Rick Jacobs on stage at the URJ Biennial

Editor's note: Rabbi Rick Jacobs presented this address before a live audience at the 2019 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial, the largest Jewish gathering in North America. Watch the video of his address below, or visit URJ.org to read the full text.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the 10 Lost Tribes of ancient Israel? In 721 B.C.E., they disappeared. Poof. Gone. 

Imagine if we could find them today? Our Jewish community could increase to as many as 85 million worldwide. 

But demographers tell us that our numbers are not likely to grow in the next 50 years;...

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs addresses the URJ Biennial plenary on stage behind a podium

Editor's note: The text that follows was presented before a live audience at the 2019 URJ Biennial on Thursday, Dec. 12.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the 10 Lost Tribes of ancient Israel? In 721 B.C.E., they disappeared. Poof. Gone.

Imagine if we could find them today? Our Jewish community could increase to as many as 85 million worldwide. We’d need all of Chicago for our Biennial!

But demographers tell us that our numbers are not likely to grow in the next 50 years; that, in fact, our numbers shrinking. And some Jewish leaders don’t care.

They think...

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Rabbi Allan "Smitty" Smith on the bimah at Biennial

Earlier this week, with the death of Rabbi Allan Smith, – “Smitty” to all who knew and loved him – the Reform Jewish world lost a true giant.

After beginning his work for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ, formerly the UAHC) on the kitchen staff at a URJ camp, he quickly displayed a host of talents that led him to a career of more than three decades as the architect and builder of the URJ’s extensive youth programs, transforming the lives of generations of young people. He also served for many years as the beloved rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Honesdale, PA.

As the...

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Person holding a sign that reads REFORM JEWS WELCOME IMMIGRANTS

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, presented this sermon at Westchester Reform Temple on Rosh HaShanah morning 5780 

Take a deep breath.

This won’t be easy.

We need to face something so odious that we will try to avert our eyes. But we must not.

I want us to take a long, hard look at one migrant family. They’ve traveled a long way, hoping to reach a land of safety, a better life, but the child that is at the center of their every hope may not live another day.

Before I describe the migrant families I met on my recent trip...

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Open palm outstretched to golden fall leaves and sunshine

In Hebrew, the High Holidays are called Yamim Nora-im, often translated as “Days of Awe,” because we stand in awe before the Holy One and the eternal questions we are summoned to consider. During this season, our tradition imagines the gates of forgiveness opening and with them, we hope our often hardened hearts will open as well.

In the Hebrew – “Yirah” – the root of the word “Nora-im” means “awe” but also “fear.”

For too many of us, a real fear grips us on the eve of 5780. Of course, there is the fear that comes with the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism we are witnessing in...

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