A Message from URJ President and URJ North American Board Chair
"2020 was a year like no other that we have ever lived through . . ."
"A global pandemic that turned our world upside down overnight. Months-long protests against inequities and injustices born from generations of systemic racism. Political polarization that challenged the core foundations of our democracy.
At times like this, we turn to the wisdom of our tradition:
A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:
A time for being born and a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted,
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up,
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing....
In the face of these trying times, the Reform Movement has been planting seeds and building-up. In the midst of weeping and mourning, we have been growing love, community, and connection. We owe our accomplishments to the generosity, hard work, and determination of so many of you.
With creativity, flexibility, and ingenuity we have used this time to bring more people than ever before into Jewish life, transforming themselves, their communities, and the world.
A Time for Civic Engagement
2020 was a year of action and activism.
15,000 volunteers. 600,000 voter interactions. Our congregations and state-wide organizing efforts led the charge for civic engagement throughout the movement.
Through strategic partnerships we registered thousands of voters, mailed tens of thousands of postcards, and fought voter suppression in targeted communities.
A Time for Supporting our Congregations
Throughout 2020, the URJ supported congregations in navigating the complexities of an ever-changing landscape.
From consulting on PPP loan applications to trainings on meaningful virtual worship experiences; from managing finances in such an uncertain time to long-term planning, our congregations found essential resources and expertise that they needed most.
And, with the launch of the Reform Movement Marketplace, congregations now have access to a shared network of vendors and service providers, making the business of congregational life more transparent and manageable.
A Time for Sustaining our Camps
The unprecedented decision to close our camps for the summer of 2020 was heartbreaking, yet our camp communities proved resilient and forward looking. Our year-round camp staffs quickly organized opportunities for engagement through virtual activities like bunk gatherings; havdalah observances; and arts, sports and science programming.
As a result, thousands of campers stayed connected with their friends and created special memories together. We are especially grateful for the generosity of the thousands of donors whose outpouring of support, inspired by $1.6 million in matching grants from The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, sustained our camps and ensured a safe and joyful opening for this year.
A Time for Innovation
Born of necessity, the URJ created three new virtual learning and engagement platforms -- RJ on the Go, NFTYx, and the Social Justice Academy – all of which are now cornerstones of our program offerings and pathways for a deeper connection to Reform Jewish life.
Throughout 2020, thousands of families and young people participated in online experiences, from cooking and art classes to advocacy and social justice training.
A Time for Building Up Israel and Reform Zionism
Though the pandemic kept us from traveling to Israel, Reform engagement with Israel remained as strong as ever. Through ARZA membership, our congregations provided a financial lifeline to progressive and Reform institutions in Israel.
With the launch of our new Israel Leadership Network, hundreds of congregational leaders are sharing their passion for Israel with their home congregations.
And, as we write this, hundreds of our NFTY teens are boarding planes for Israel trips, something that seemed but a dream just a few months ago.
As we look back on all that we have accomplished together in 2020, we are humbled and grateful to be your partners in the sacred work of building a more whole, just, and compassionate world. We now walk together on the long path to recovery, acknowledging the loss and pain, even as we acknowledge our achievements.
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding,
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking...
Let us use this time to call out for kindness, mercy, and justice."
Rick and Jen
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman
Chair, North American Board