At URJ Biennial, We Are Reminded That We Are Not Alone by Rachel Campbell

It would be an understatement to say that it has been a challenging time in our country these last several years. I don’t need to go through the laundry list why. And while Temple Beth El has served as a beacon to many of us during these hard times, it can often feel like we are a single safe ship in a very stormy sea.

This past week, myself and more than two dozen other TBE staff, clergy, layleaders and members spend five days at URJ Biennial 2017, the every-other-year gathering of thousands of people from Union of Reform Judaism congregations and communities from across North America.

And through Shabbat services, intensive learning sessions, breakout lectures and inspiring plenaries, I was reminded that we are not a single ship, but part of a mighty fleet, one that is living and breathing every day.

During this year’s Biennial, we voted unanimously to adopt resolutions on voting rights, climate change and education. We heard from inspiring leaders in the fight for social justice. The topic of Israel and its many contradictory and controversial facets were confronted head-on. We talked about small group engagement, about audacious hospitality, about new interpretations of our sacred texts and about so much more.

I was reminded nearly every hour of those five days that we at TBE do not operate in a vacuum, as the URJ reflects our values and the values of the URJ reflect the issues we face every day.

We were among 6,000 other URJ Biennial attendees. That number alone felt overwhelming, but it becomes downright staggering when you remember that each of those people is part of a congregation in their communities, from tiny temples in Idaho to massive institutions in New York and everything in between. Millions strong, the Reform movement, the movement that we call home, is moving forward now and in years to come. And we are moving forward with it.

And the best part of that is that we’re not doing it alone.


Rachel Campbell has been involved in the Temple Beth El community for the last four years, including serving as co-chair of The Porch and recently, joining the Board of Directors. She also works for Moishe House.

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