President to address URJ biennial in Washington
NEW YORK — The largest gathering of North American Jews this year will hear from President Barack Obama and a host of Jewish leaders this week at the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Biennial conference in Washington, D.C.
It will be the first time a sitting U.S. president has ever addressed a convention of the Reform movement.
Some 6,000 participants, including several from the Pittsburgh area and West Virginia will be on hand for the five-day conference, which concludes Sunday.
During the gathering, outgoing URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie will formally step aside and his successor, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, will be installed.
Yoffie, who has served as URJ president since 1986, has presided over a rapidly evolving movement, including greater attention to Torah study, adult literacy and ritual — elements that were canonized in 1999 by what is often referred to as the second Pittsburgh Platform. He also spearheaded a major expansion of the Union’s summer camping program. In 2005 he introduced the Sacred Choices curriculum to teach sexual ethics to teens in camps and congregations.
In addition to Obama, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and others will address the convention.
Chronicle Executive Editor Lee Chottiner will be at the convention, and blogging about developments there.