Every two years, thousands of Reform Jews from all corners of the world gather at the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Biennial. Last year between 5,000 to 7,000 people attended the Biennial at the McCormick Place Conference Center in Chicago. If you’ve never been at a meeting with this many Jewish people of all ages, then this is the event to look out for. For me this was a first, and this is my personal lookback report of a few highlights on jLab.
Most portrayals of Jews in fiction are weak. It doesn’t matter if they’re on television, the stage or in print, Jewish characters seem to fall into a few broad classes. Token Jews show up for ethnic diversity. Sometimes, nothing about them seems Jewish other than the mention that they are. Sometimes, they drip Yiddishisms and Jewish steriotypes, but their purpose is to be Jewish, not to convey anything about Jews other than the fact that they’re different.
Now that the chanukkiyot are packed away, the candlewax has been scraped from window sills, the dinners, the Season’s post cards, the gift wrappings, champagne corks and fireworks are behind us, what we have left to reflect on are not only our expanded waistlines but the family relationships we built during the winter Holiday Season.
It’s not just the tryptophan in the turkey; there is an unmistakable mellowness to a Thanksgiving dinner that feels Shabbosdik: where people take the time to relax, talk, eat and savor the company of loved ones. Not only that, it is one of the few American holidays where this country – of incessant consumption and entrepreneurism – shuts down, in the best possible way.
My oldest and I have had several philosophical conversations on the nature of ‘truth’: he asks me whether fairytales are real, and I have responded to him that things may not be real – as in factual and empirical – but can still be true – as in the values they hold and the ideas they drive.