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TCS Bulletin - Finding Reform Judaism in Minneapolis

It was in Minneapolis in 2003 that I really discovered Reform Judaism. For many reasons this may seem like a strange statement to make; not least because I grew up as an active member of a Reform Synagogue and had, by that time, already spent a year working for the British Reform movement. But it was a trip to Minneapolis, amidst the cold and the snow, where I experienced a Reform Judaism which was totally different from anything I had seen before.

Growing up as a Reform Jew in Britain there were many times when the “authenticity” of my stream of Judaism was questioned. Having an overwhelming Orthodox majority meant that the Jewish press and institutions were often dominated by people who rejected the validity of any stream which was not Orthodox. As a result the Reform Jewish community would often look over its right shoulder, worrying about the “orthodox” response to various decisions, which ideologically and religiously, they might otherwise have taken.

In the summer of 2003 an e-mail had gone around to leaders within the Reform Jewish community asking if they would be interested in attending the UAHC Biennial (the name would be changed to the URJ – Union for Reform Judaism in Minneapolis), which would be happening that November. As someone who enjoys Jewish conferences, I jumped at the chance to spend five days with the American Reform Jewish community, and made the necessary arrangements to be there. It was a decision which I would not regret.

As I walked into the conference center I was impressed by the number of people who were there, the place was literally filled with thousands of people. They spanned the generations, with people of all ages from across the entire country. And I was struck by the realization that all of them were Reform Jews just like me.

The Biennial offered something for everyone with a huge variety of sessions during the day and wonderful entertainment at night. I was inspired as I listened to a variety of speakers sharing their visions of Reform Judaism. I was stunned by the number of engaged Reform Jews who were there. And I was moved by the prayer experience as the approximately 5,000 people came together for Shabbat services.

In Minneapolis I found the Reform Judaism which I had been looking for. When I returned to London I was refreshed, rejuvenated and reengaged with my identity as a proud Reform Jew. And less then a year later I began my rabbinical studies.

Since Minneapolis I have attended Biennials in San Diego and Toronto, both of which were filled with wonderful sessions, great performances and rousing services. 

This year the Biennial will be taking place in Washington DC from December 14-18, and a group will be attending from The Community Synagogue. It is a really unique event, which is well worth attending. 

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
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