Union for Reform Judaism

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Union for Reform Judaism
Abbreviation URJ,
The Union
Formation 1873
Founded at Cincinnati, Ohio
Legal status religious nonprofit organization
Purpose Reform Judaism
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio (1873 – 1951)
New York, New York (1951 – present)
Richard Jacobs[2]
Daryl Messinger[3]
Affiliations Hebrew Union College,
North American Federation of Temple Youth,
Religious Action Center
Budget (2015)
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014) $81,961,000[5]
Website www.urj.org
Formerly called
Union of American Hebrew Congregations

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,[6] and chairman of the board is Stephen Sacks.

History and recent activities[edit]

The origins of the Union for Reform Judaism began with the founding of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in 1873, based at Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, it consisted of 34 congregations. In 1951, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations relocated its headquarters to New York City.[6]

On November 7, 2003, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations was officially renamed the Union for Reform Judaism by a vote of the General Assembly at the organization's Biennial Convention.[7] The organization's name was changed because the form name reflected Wise's unrealized expectation that the whole of American Jewry would eventually affiliate with the Reform movement. It was also changed because the former name referred to the archaic word Hebrew rather than the more modern word Judaism; and also because the former name failed to acknowledge the Reform-affiliated congregations outside the United States.[7]

The organization is often referred to simply as "the Union". As of 2012, over 900 synagogues were affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism.[6]

In 1875, the organization created Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, the Reform movement's seminary to train rabbis and later cantors and other Jewish professionals. In 1950, Hebrew Union College 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.[8][9]

Along with other agencies such as the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union for Reform Judaism condemned a move in mid-2014 by the United States Presbyterian Church to divest from companies that do business with Israel settlements.[10]

In 2015, Daryl Messinger became the first female chair of the Union.[11]

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.[12] 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,[13] comprising 13 summer camps across North America, including a sports specialty camp,[14] teen leadership institute[15] and programs for youth with special needs.[16] 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.[19]

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.

URJ Biennials[edit]

The convention that organized the Union of American Hebrew Congregations met on July 8, 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Councils of the UAHC subsequently met on the following occasions:

  • 1st, Cleveland, Ohio, July 14, 1874
  • 2nd, Buffalo, N.Y., July 13, 1875
  • 3rd, Washington, July 11, 1876
  • 4th, Philadelphia, July 10, 1877
  • 5th, Milwaukee, Wis., July 9, 1878
  • 6th, New York, July 8, 1879
  • 7th, Chicago, July 12, 1881
  • 8th, Cincinnati, Ohio, July 10, 1883
  • 9th, St. Louis, Mo., July 14, 1885
  • 10th, Pittsburgh, Pa., July 12, 1887
  • 11th, Detroit, July 9, 1889
  • 12th, Baltimore, Md., July 7, 1891
  • 13th, Washington, Dec. 6, 1892
  • 14th, New Orleans, La., Dec. 4, 1894
  • 15th, Louisville, Ky., Dec. 1, 1896
  • 16th, Richmond, Va., Dec. 6, 1898
  • 17th, Cincinnati 1901
  • 18th, St. Louis 1903
  • 19th, Chicago 1905
  • 20th, Atlanta 1907
  • 21st, Philadelphia 1909
  • 22nd, New York 1911
  • 23rd, Cincinnati 1913
  • 24th, Chicago 1915
  • 25th, Baltimore 1917
  • 26th, Boston 1919
  • 27th, Buffalo 1921
  • 28th, New York 1923
  • 29th, St. Louis 1925
  • 30th, Cleveland 1927
  • 31st, San Francisco 1929
  • 32nd, Philadelphia 1931
  • 33rd, Chicago 1933
  • 34th, Washington 1935
  • 35th, New Orleans 1937
  • 36th, Cincinnati 1939
  • 37th, Detroit 1941
  • 38th, New York 1943
  • 39th, Cincinnati 1946
  • 40th, Boston 1948
  • 41st, Cleveland 1950
  • 42nd, New York 1953
  • 43rd, Los Angeles 1955
  • 44th, Toronto 1957
  • 45th, Miami Beach 1959
  • 46th, Washington 1961
  • 47th, Chicago 1963
  • 48th, San Francisco 1965
  • 49th, Montreal 1967
  • 50th, Miami Beach 1969
  • 51st, Los Angeles 1971
  • 52nd, New York 1973
  • 53rd, Dallas 1975
  • 54th, San Francisco 1977
  • 55th, Toronto 1979
  • 56th, Boston 1981
  • 57th, Houston 1983
  • 58th, Los Angeles 1985
  • 59th, Chicago 1987
  • 60th, New Orleans 1989
  • 61st, Baltimore 1991
  • 62nd, San Francisco 1993
  • 63rd, Atlanta 1995
  • 64th, Dallas 1997
  • 65th, Orlando 1999
  • 66th, Boston 2001
  • 67th, Minneapolis 2003

The following are the Biennials organized by the Union for Reform Judaism, as the UAHC was renamed:

  • 68th, Houston 2005
  • 69th, San Diego 2007
  • 70th, Toronto 2009
  • 71st, Washington 2011
  • 72nd, San Diego 2013
  • 73rd, Orlando 2015

Future site:

  • 74th, Boston 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Union for Reform Judaism". Guidestar. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Leadership & Governance". Union for Reform Judaism. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Board of Trustees". Union for Reform Judaism. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Budget for the Twelve Months Endin December 31, 2015" (PDF). Union for Reform Judaism. November 24, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Audited Financial Statements for the Year Ending December 31, 2014" (PDF). Union for Reform Judaism. July 27, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "History - Union for Reform Judaism". Union for Reform Judaism. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Reform Judaism Group Decides to Update Name:". The Washington Post. November 8, 2003. p. B8. 
  8. ^ Rabbi Offner, Union for Reform Judaism website. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  9. ^ What's Rabbi Offner up to Now?
  10. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Jewish-groups-condemn-US-Presbyterian-Church-vote-to-divest-from-Israel-360215
  11. ^ Eden, Ami (2015). "Five questions for the first woman to chair the Union for Reform Judaism | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Jta.org. Retrieved 2015-11-10. 
  12. ^ "About NFTY". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  13. ^ "URJ Camp & Israel Programs". 
  14. ^ "URJ 6 Points Sports Academy". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Kutz: NFTY's Campus for Reform Jewish Teens". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  16. ^ "URJ Camp & Israel Programs Special Needs Programs". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Joshua Schuster (October 9, 1998). "Sale of Camp Swig angers rabbis, campers". Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  19. ^ "About the URJ Camp & Israel Programs". Retrieved January 9, 2012. 

External links[edit]