Report from the 2013 URJ Biennial

By Cantor David Reinwald

 This past week, along with Rabbi Cohen and many other TBS staff and members, I attended the 2013 URJ Biennial in San Diego.  This was only my second time attending one of these gigantic gatherings—the last time actually being six years ago when it was last held in San Diego.  Every two years, the URJ holds this convention with attendance averaging near 5000.  It is an impressive gathering and celebrates all of the goings-on and ideas being spread through the heart of our movement.  It is definitely a celebration of all that we are and will continue to be into the future.  It makes one quite proud to be a member of this amazing movement and denomination.

It is hard to break down into just a few paragraphs all that happens over a period of five days at the biennial—as often one day feels like half a week.  It can be an overwhelming experience for many who attend, as there is just so much to choose from to attend, where it becomes nearly impossible to hit every informational and educational workshop, organizational booth, worship service, speech from movement leaders and national and international dignitaries, concert, let alone not to miss the great shopping for Judaica, great books and music, etc, etc, ETC!  To say it was delightfully tiring is a great and understated description!

I deeply committed myself to singing on several occasions at this biennial.  I sang in a Shabbat morning service, a colleague’s performance of Yiddish theater music, but the absolute most powerful experience was singing with 50 of my colleagues in recognizing the 60th anniversary of the American Conference of Cantors, my honorable professional association.  We sang a newly written piece by our colleague Cantor Jonathan Comisar—a piece which linked several of most influential pieces of music to stem from the Reform movement since its inception.  Watch and listen to our performance here, where you can also see so many of the other speeches/performances/services on the URJ’s YouTube page:

I think one of the most important things that anyone can take away from the biennial (and this is still very possible if you were not in attendance by watching the URJ’s YouTube videos and reading reports at the website) is to learn of the current state of the URJ, what is happening and has happened in our movement, and the things to look forward to in the months and year(s) to come.  Our movement is, with no doubt, still the Reform movement, with no “Reform-ed” ideology in sight.  We are constantly reform-ing to meet the demands and challenges, but overall blessings of being a modern Jewish community.  Stand with us as we continue to move forward.  Be excited about everything that is to come.  I, especially, can’t wait to share a lot of the new music I heard and experienced.  Get ready, because it is already here!

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