URJ Biennial: Gaining Perspective
By Benjamin Bass, Class of 2019
Benjamin Bass was one of six Rutgers students who attended the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial earlier this month, along with Rutgers Hillel staff member Sarah Magida, our Reform Community Educator.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial for a second time. I was involved in two full days of prayer, song, and study. I was involved in the college session and listened to many prominent progressive Jewish leaders including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, and Ari Shavit. For me, the most interesting part of Biennial was when Rabbi Rick Jacobs and the students in the college session had lunch together on Friday afternoon. We discussed our relationship with Reform Judaism in college and what we wanted from the Reform Movement.
Having Rick Jacobs come and speak to us was a great experience because he is the President of the URJ. As President, his voice really matters, and this lunch was a unique opportunity to have our voices be heard. I got to hear the URJ’s opinion on very specific issues relevant to college students.
The college session was a meeting of around thirty students, and it was awesome having the chance to meet so many new people. Those involved in the college session came from very different colleges and presented unique challenges to their Reform experience at college. Although there were many differences between students from different schools, I was still very similar to many of these students, and the Rutgers Reform community faced many similar issues.
Talking to Rick Jacobs about challenges to being a Reform Jew in college made me realize how fortunate I am to go to Rutgers and be a member of our Hillel’s Reform community. Many students described specific roadblocks to being a Reform Jew in college. After our conversations at Biennial, I am much more grateful for Sarah Magida, the Reform Community Educator, and her role. Overall I realized that many other Reform Jews were experiencing challenges and became much more appreciative of the Rutgers Reform community.
Rutgers Hillel developed the Reform Outreach Initiative, the first program on any campus dedicated to the Reform Movement. With a full-time Reform Educator, a cadre of student leaders, and support for programming, the Reform Movement now has a voice on the campus with the largest Jewish undergraduate population in the country, to complement our staff’s Orthodox Rabbinic couple and Conservative Rabbi.
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