Yesterday’s Inauguration of President Obama was stirring on many levels.  First to see the transfer of power calmly and the oath of office administered by the Supreme Court Justices is an inspiring moment.  Around the world people hunger for this kind of civil and democratic process.  As the Arab Spring continues to struggle with Democracy and as Syria is a place of bloodshed and civil war as Mali and the Congo are ruled by militia, and other countries around the world can only dream of this kind of peace and this kind of government by the people, we ought to be heartened as Americans.  Even with our flaws and bitter elections and even our gridlock that seems to haunt the halls of Congress the symbols of our Republic that were on full view yesterday continue to inspire hope that we can overcome our differences.

Also inspiring was the inclusion on display at yesterday’s Inauguration.  For the first time in my life I felt my whole self present.  President Obama’s acknowledgement of the struggles of the LGBT civil rights movement affirmed what I have long worked for.  The struggle for LGBT people to be fully included into society and offered the same rights and responsibilities as all its citizens including the right to form our families and protect them is no less important that Women’s Suffrage or the dignity and freedom of the African- American civil rights struggle.

Inclusion also means acknowledging those who are poor not just the wealthy who financed the campaigns.  And President Obama did so.  He acknowledged those whose children are differently-abled and included all! And those who long to yet become part of America-those whose have come to this country and have yet to be a part of it!

But President Obama didn’t stop there. He acknowledge that America is diverse in ethnic heritage and it was on display in the Inauguration Parade as a Chinese – American Ethnic dancers, Mexican-American Mariachis, Native American marchers participated midst the military troops and marching bands.

This is an America that I am a part of. This is the kind of America I want to be a part of.  I hope we won’t get bogged down again but can indeed find a way to help lift up all those who are a part of the fabric of America.

Obama affirms “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Today President Barak Obama came forward to affirm marriage equality for Gay and Lesbian Couples!  Thank you.  I know that in a heated race for President this was not an easy one (although LGBT activists have wanted you to affirm this for many years!).  But as you ran on Hope and Change as your themes in 2008, I am glad to see that you have the ability to change and grow.  I know the Republican leadership will try and discredit you-more than they have already done so-because at the core of their party are Christian right wing supporters who really don’t see gay men and lesbians as full human beings or full citizens.  

Our public policy has made marriage a cornerstone.   If you deny access to that institution then you deny access to the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  If someone chooses not to get married that is again their personal choice (more people are doing just that-not marrying), but for those couples who want to -it ought to be available.  Marriage is a civil right.  If any church or synagogue believes differently they can deny their wedding sacraments to anyone who crosses their threshold.  But the local county registrar may not. 

Thank you again Mr. President and Mr. Vice-President for “evolving” and growing on this issue and showing that it is possible to learn and change one’s mind with a sense of integrity.

OBAMA: I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.


Gays and Lesbians in the Holocaust

Please read this article about the importance of GLBT presence!  Here is one reason President Obama included in his speech on Holocaust Memorial Day the fact that gays and lesbians were persecuted by the Nazi’s as well.  


See the importance of having the gay and lesbian experience represented in history matters.

Virtual Biennial

I am sad that I am not able to join the over 6000 colleagues, lay leaders and friends in Washington, D.C. this week for the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial.   I haven’t missed a Biennial since the 1980’s!   I was registered to go but we had to scale back our travel and convention lines of the Kol Ami budget.  It is tough times out there for people and for synagogues.

But now you can join with me virtually!  Here is a schedule for all of the broadcasts of the Biennial including Shabbat services which are always inspiring and rousing!  Remember the times are Eastern Standard Time.  Click on this link to log in!  And watch the main sessions over the next week!  I know it will inspire you.  Even President Obama will be speaking on Friday!

Live and Recorded Webcasts

This year all of the plenary sessions and forums will be available for viewing via online webcasts on this page. Tune in to watch! The following noted sessions will be streamed live; the others will be available as soon as possible, within hours.

Wednesday Evening 8:15–10:15 P.M. Welcome to DC Plenary

  • Call to Order: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, Temple Shaari Emeth, Manalapan, NJ
  • Welcome:
    • Carole Sterling, 2011 Biennial Chair, Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, ON; Edward Burger, 2011 Biennial Vice Chair, Congregation B’nai Israel, Bridgeport, CT.
    • Co-Chairs, 2011 Local Arrangements Committee Kathy Goldgeier, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD; Lauren Racoosin, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, DC; Chuck Thornton, Temple Rodef Shalom, Fairfax, VA
  • Presentation of Credentials: Charles Rothschild, Chair, Union for Reform Judaism Credentials Committee, Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA
  • Nominations and Elections for At-large Representatives to the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees and MUM Committee:
    • Robert M. Heller, Former Board of Trustees Chair and Nominating Committee Chair, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Synagogue, New York, NY
    • Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Since the Last Biennial: Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Remarks: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Keynote: The Blessing of a B Minus
    • Introduction: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Speaker: Dr. Wendy Mogel, Best-selling author
  • Address: Natan Sharansky
    • Introduction: Rabbi Robert Orkand, President, ARZA The Reform Israel Fund
    • Speaker: Natan Sharanksy, Chairman,

    Jewish Agency for Israel

  • Tribute to Debbie Friedman (z”l) andPresentation of the Inaugural Debbie Friedman Award for Contributions to Jewish Music to Theodore Bikel
  • Musical Presentation: Kol B’seder

Thursday Morning 8:45–10:15 A.M. Joint Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Julie Silver
  • Welcome: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Keynote
    • Introduction: Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
    • Speaker: Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), U.S. House Majority Leader
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to Ambassador Nancy Brinker
    • Presentation: Lynn Magid Lazar, President, Women of Reform Judaism, Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh, PA, Rabbi David Stern, Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, TX
    • Acceptance: Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to Rabbi Richard Hirsch
    • Presentation: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism, Natan Sharanksy, Chairman, Jewish Agency for Israel
    • Acceptance: Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honorary Life President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Founding Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thursday Afternoon Forums 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Campaign for Youth Engagement: Committing to the Jewish Future

Please participate with us as we launch the Campaign for Youth Engagement, a Movement-wide strategic commitment to successfully engage a majority of Reform Jewish youth by the year 2020.

Join Rabbis Rick JacobsJonah PesnerEric Yoffie, and Peter Weidhorn (URJ), Rabbi David Ellenson, President (HUC-JIR), Wayne Firestone, President (Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life) and Forrest Yesnes, President (NFTY) along with the leadership of ACC, CCAR, ECE-RJ, MRJ, NATA, NATE, PARDeS, and WRJ for this dynamic and interactive forum. Learn how to take action in your congregation and be part of this historic moment when we come together to commit to the Jewish future.

The People Demand Social Justice: A New Era in the Pursuit of Social Justice and Equal Rights in the Jewish State

Gilad Kariv and Anat HoffmanThis summer, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in an unprecedented series of protests focusing on social justice. Have we reached a tipping point on these issues? IMPJ Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, and IRAC Director, Anat Hoffman, on the current status of Israeli-Arabs, progressive Jews and other minorities in Israeli society.


Liberalism, Conservatism: Which Better Furthers Jewish Values and Jewish Interests?

David Saperstein and Bill KristolRabbi David Saperstein, Director of the RAC, and William Kristol, Editor of theWeekly Standard and television commentator, will debate different approaches, discuss which provide the best paths to achieving the goals of Jewish values and security, and explore where we can find common ground.

The Changing Landscape of Jewish Life and Its Implications for Reform Judaism: Two Views

Len Saxe and Steve CohenWhat are the key socio-cultural changes in Jewish life, and what do they mean for the future of the Jewish community and Reform Judaism? Leonard Saxe, of Brandeis University, and Steven M. Cohen, of HUC-JIR, will discuss their different takes on these pivotal issues in what is sure to be an engaging and lively conversation.

Thursday Evening 8:15–10:15 P.M. Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Six13
  • Recognizing Award Winning Congregations: Belin Outreach Awards, Epstein Communicate! Awards, Nachshon Awards, Irving J. Fain Awards
  • Presentation of the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award to David Boies and Ted Olson
  • Focus on Future Leaders Remarks: Wayne Firestone, President, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
  • EIE Celebrates 50 Years
  • Keynote Address:
    • Introduction: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Speaker: The Honorable Ehud Barak, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
  • Resolutions Debate: Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, Chair, URJ Resolutions Committee, Congregation B’nai Israel, Sacramento, CA

Friday afternoon- 12:45–3:00 P.M. Plenary

  • Musical Presentation: Josh Nelson Project
  • Chairman’s Address
    • Introduction: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
    • Remarks: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
  • Campaign for Youth Engagement Kickoff Presentation: Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of Presidential Transition, Union for Reform Judaism
  • The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: Celebrating 50 Years of Social Justice Leadership
  • Keynote Address: The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States

Friday evening- 6:15–7:15 P.M. Kabbalat Shabbat Service

  • Rabbi Micah Greenstein, Temple Israel, Memphis, TN
  • Cantor Jennifer Frost, B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL

Shabbat morning- 10:00 A.M.–12:30 P.M. Morning T’filah

  • Sh’lichei Tzibur–Service Leaders Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ; Cantor Martha Novick, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ;Rabbi Douglas Sagal, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ.
  • Torah Reader: Adina Yoffie, Genesis 37:1 – 11
  • Aliyah 1: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie and his family
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Charles Kroloff
  • Aliyah 2: Campaign for Youth Engagement
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Rick Jacobs
  • Aliyah 3: New Officers/Oversight Committee
  • Mi ShebeirachRabbi Eric H. Yoffie
  • Haftarah: Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, Rabbi Jonathan Stein
  • PRESIDENTIAL SERMON: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Union for Reform Judaism


Sunday morning- 8:45–10:30 A.M. Closing Plenary

  • Musical Presentation:Noah Aronson
  • Incoming Chairman’s Address:
  • Introduction:Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President,Union for Reform Judaism
  • Remarks: Stephen Sacks, Chairman-elect, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD
  • A New Vision for a New Era Presentation: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect, Union for Reform Judaism, and members of the Transition Team
  • Words of Blessing: Rabbi Eric H. YoffieRabbi David EllensonRabbi Steven FoxCantor Susan Caro
  • 2011 Biennial Retrospective
  • Looking Ahead to San Diego 2013
  • Tefilat Haderech (Traveler’s Prayer): Noah Aronson
  • Adjournment: Peter J. Weidhorn, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees

President Proclaims GLBT Pride Month

Today is June 1.  It is the Start of Gay Pride Month!  Even the President declares it so.  Here is the Official Proclamation for Gay and Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month made by our President.

The White House Emblem

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
May 31, 2011

Presidential Proclamation–Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month


The story of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Since taking office, my Administration has made significant progress towards achieving equality for LGBT Americans. Last December, I was proud to sign the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With this repeal, gay and lesbian Americans will be able to serve openly in our Armed Forces for the first time in our Nation’s history. Our national security will be strengthened and the heroic contributions these Americans make to our military, and have made throughout our history, will be fully recognized.

My Administration has also taken steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans in Federal housing programs and to give LGBT Americans the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital. We have made clear through executive branch nondiscrimination policies that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the Federal workplace will not be tolerated. I have continued to nominate and appoint highly qualified, openly LGBT individuals to executive branch and judicial positions. Because we recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration stands with advocates of equality around the world in leading the fight against pernicious laws targeting LGBT persons and malicious attempts to exclude LGBT organizations from full participation in the international system. We led a global campaign to ensure “sexual orientation” was included in the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial execution — the only United Nations resolution that specifically mentions LGBT people — to send the unequivocal message that no matter where it occurs, state-sanctioned killing of gays and lesbians is indefensible. No one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love, and my Administration has mobilized unprecedented public commitments from countries around the world to join in the fight against hate and homophobia.

At home, we are working to address and eliminate violence against LGBT individuals through our enforcement and implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We are also working to reduce the threat of bullying against young people, including LGBT youth. My Administration is actively engaged with educators and community leaders across America to reduce violence and discrimination in schools. To help dispel the myth that bullying is a harmless or inevitable part of growing up, the First Lady and I hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. Many senior Administration officials have also joined me in reaching out to LGBT youth who have been bullied by recording “It Gets Better” video messages to assure them they are not alone.

This month also marks the 30th anniversary of the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has had a profound impact on the LGBT community. Though we have made strides in combating this devastating disease, more work remains to be done, and I am committed to expanding access to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Last year, I announced the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States. This strategy focuses on combinations of evidence-based approaches to decrease new HIV infections in high risk communities, improve care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and reduce health disparities. My Administration also increased domestic HIV/AIDS funding to support the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and HIV prevention, and to invest in HIV/AIDS-related research. However, government cannot take on this disease alone. This landmark anniversary is an opportunity for the LGBT community and allies to recommit to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and continuing the fight against this deadly pandemic.

Every generation of Americans has brought our Nation closer to fulfilling its promise of equality. While progress has taken time, our achievements in advancing the rights of LGBT Americans remind us that history is on our side, and that the American people will never stop striving toward liberty and justice for all.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.