What I Learned at the URJ Biennial

Posted on December 17, 2013

Shoshana here, again. For those of you who don’t know, I just came back from a little trip to San Diego for the URJ Biennial. Now let me tell you, this was my first Biennial and I had no idea what to expect. I knew all about the classes, plenaries, and booth exhibits, but I was completely unprepared for the strong unity and connection I felt from the almost the second I deboarded my flight. By the end of the convention, people I spoke with kept describing the past four days as “invigorating,” “revitalizing,” and “lifechanging”…and honestly, I couldn’t have agreed with them more.

Let’s start with when I got first arrived in San Diego. My boss was on a separate flight and his got delayed while mine arrived 30 minutes early. We had not fully planned for such a scenario and when I got to baggage claim, I had zero idea of where to go. I walked out into the California sunshine and got on line for a taxi, figuring I was going to need one no matter what. Suddenly, I heard the women in front of me talking about being part of the Women of Reform Judaism. I apologized for eavesdropping and then told them all out my predicament. They looked at me and said, “Oh! Your first Biennial….you are going to love it! If you want, you can share our cab to the hotel, put your bags down, and then we’ll show you to the convention center.” This act of complete openness and kindness was the first of many I witnessed (and experienced) over the Biennial.

I wish I could catalog all the wonderful moments of the convention but I think I would lose all of you by the third or fourth page so allow me to just mention something that happened right at the Areyvut booth, which totally encapsulates why I so thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Biennial. As many of you know, one of Areyvut’s programs is a National Mitzvah Day that we run in conjunction with Good Deeds Day. For an entire weekend, we mobilize hundreds of Jews from across the country in acts of kindness. While at the Biennial, we had the pleasure of meeting many dedicated NFTY teens, but it is two from Los Angeles that stand out in particular. With many of their peers, these two took the bus from LA to San Diego for the day. During our conversation, we began to discuss the importance of having teens engaged in giving back, and these wonderful students told us that they were actually running their own Mitzvah Day the following day! They said they loved the look of our programming and even took a box of Areyvut water bottles and brochures to put in their Mitzvah Day goody-bags.

As they walked away, my boss and I just looked at each other and smiled. These teens are the future of the Jewish people and we could not be more proud of their attitudes and actions. And that is honestly what the Biennial was all about. Jews coming together- to connect- to make an impact on the future of the Jewish people.

It was an incredible few days. Full of fun, learning, excitement, and unity…and isn’t that the most important thing?

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