Union for Reform Judaism

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Union for Reform Judaism
Founded Cincinnati, Ohio (1873)
Website http://www.urj.org/

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), is an organization that supports Reform Jewish congregations in North America. The current President is Rabbi Richard Jacobs,[1] and the Chairman of the Board is Stephen Sacks.

History and recent activities[edit]

The origins of the URJ began with the founding of the UAHC by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in 1873, based at Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time it consisted of 34 congregations. In 1951, the UAHC relocated its headquarters to New York City.[1] In 2003, the UAHC was officially renamed the Union for Reform Judaism by the General Assembly at the organization's Biennial Convention. The former name was dropped because it reflected Wise's unrealized expectation that the whole of American Jewry would eventually affiliate with the Reform movement, and also because it failed to acknowledge the Reform-affiliated congregations outside the United States. Today, the organization is often referred to simply as "the Union". As of 2012, over 900 synagogues were affiliated with it.[1]

In 1875, the Union created Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, the Reform movement seminary to train rabbis and later cantors and other Jewish professionals. In 1950, the college merged with the Jewish Institute of Religion, a Reform rabbinical college founded in 1922 by Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, and located in New York City. Rabbis in URJ member temples are members of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

In 2008, Stacy Offner became the first female vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position she held for two years.[2][3]

Along with other agencies such as the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union condemned a move in mid-2014 by the U.S. Presbyterian Church to divest from companies that do business with Israel settlements.[4]

Youth (NFTY)[edit]

The North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) is the Reform Jewish youth movement and exists to supplement and support Reform youth groups at the synagogue level. About 750 local youth groups affiliate themselves with the organization, comprising over 8,500 youth members.[5] NFTYites convene at local, regional, and North American events throughout the year with a focus on community building, worship, social action and experiential youth-led Jewish educational programming.

The URJ Camp & Israel Programs offer summer camp and Israel travel experiences to youth.


A photo of the entrance sign for Camp Swig in Saratoga, California.
Entrance sign for Camp Swig in Saratoga, California.

The URJ Camp & Israel Programs is the largest Jewish camping system in the world,[6] comprising 13 summer camps across North America, including a sports specialty camp,[7] teen leadership institute[8] and programs for youth with special needs.[9] Campers observe Shabbat, engage in programming about Jewish values and history, and partake in recreational activities including athletics, creative arts and color war. Many of the camps have long provided the opportunity for high school aged campers to travel to Israel during the summer.

When not in use as camps, some of these facilities are often used by other community groups, including NFTY events.

Canoeists on a lake at URJ Joseph Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The summer camps are:

URJ Camps that have closed or are no longer running:

Israel programs[edit]

The URJ Camp & Israel Programs offer a number of Israel and Europe international travel programs for youth and teens, some of which offer high school and college credit.[12]

Programs include:

  • NFTY in Israel summer travel adventures
  • NFTY-EIE High School in Israel
  • URJ KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel trips
  • Netzer Year gap-year program
  • Kibbutz Lotan environmental sustainability program
  • Tikkun Olam volunteer program for college graduates

Hava Nashira[edit]

Hava Nashira is an annual Jewish songleading workshop held every spring at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute camp. The workshop is open to URJ camp songleaders as well as to temple music specialists and all those with a serious interest in Jewish songleading and music.

Hava Nashira draws the prominent modern Jewish musicians, including Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Dan Nichols, and Josh Nelson to lead specialty tracks. Examples of creative tracks offered in previous years: "URJ Camp Songleading" by Dan Nichols, Alan Goodis and Rosalie Will Boxt, "Repertoire Renewal" by Debbie Friedman, and "Music for Young Children and Families" by Peter and Ellen Allard.

Political outreach[edit]

The political and legislative outreach of the URJ is performed by the Religious Action Center (RAC), operated in conjunction with CCAR. The RAC advocates policy positions based upon religious values, and is generally associated with political progressivism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "History - Union for Reform Judaism". Union for Reform Judaism. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ Rabbi Offner, Union for Reform Judaism website. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  3. ^ What's Rabbi Offner up to Now?
  4. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Jewish-groups-condemn-US-Presbyterian-Church-vote-to-divest-from-Israel-360215
  5. ^ "About NFTY". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ "URJ Camp & Israel Programs". 
  7. ^ "URJ 6 Points Sports Academy". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Kutz: NFTY's Campus for Reform Jewish Teens". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ "URJ Camp & Israel Programs Special Needs Programs". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Sarah Coleman (August 8, 1997). "UAHC's new Camp Newman opens with songs, Torah, VIPs". Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  11. ^ Joshua Schuster (October 9, 1998). "Sale of Camp Swig angers rabbis, campers". Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  12. ^ "About the URJ Camp & Israel Programs". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 

External links[edit]