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President's Column by President Andy Cheng

Our Migration to Chicago

Every two years, thousands of Jews from across North America and around the world congregate at the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial. This past December 2019, 28 congregants, including four multigenerational families from Beth Am, migrated to the Windy City to learn, worship, connect, and of course… eat.

Learn. There were more than 150 sessions with topics relevant to 21st century Reform synagogues, ranging from anti-racism, engaging millennials and Gen Z-ers, and Israel, to Jewish philanthropy. I had the honor of co-presenting a session on building a leadership pipeline. Beth Am Past President and URJ Vice President Amy Asin delivered a thought-provoking keynote on how congregations can start experimenting with transformative and disruptive change.

Worship. We experienced Shabbat services and dinner with 5,000 of our closest Reform Jewish friends — all in one room. Our Cantor Emerita, Kay Greenwald, sang in the American Conference Cantor Choir during a tribute to Barbara Ostfeld, the first woman ordained as a cantor.

Connect. There were countless networking moments as well as the opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces and get to know our fellow congregants better. Beth Am member Karen Kronick said it best: “We really valued the time to talk with Beth Am friends where we shared personal experiences and our reactions to the sessions. Too often at home, we may have friendly chats but we come and go separately to and from our personal lives and do not have any extended, informal time together.”

Eat. During the last night of the Biennial, we had our traditional Beth Am family meal at a local Italian restaurant, celebrating our sacred partnerships and our vibrant, beautiful congregational community.

This year’s URJ Biennial was particularly special — we honored Beth Am’s very own Past President Daryl Messinger who completed her term as the first woman Chair of the North American Board of Trustees of the URJ. And current Beth Am Board Member Micaela Hellman-Tincher now joins Past President Loree Farrar to serve as at-large members of the North American Board of Trustees.

The next URJ Biennial has been scheduled for December 8-11, 2021 at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C. I hope you’ll consider joining us next year.



Fri, August 14 2020 24 Av 5780