Friday, November 6, 2009

URJ Biennial

I'm in the Toronto airport waiting for the flight that will carry me home to Chicago. I've been, for the last two days, a participant in the Union for Reform Judaism's Biennial convention.

Every other year, Reform Jews get together to celebrate Jewish life, to learn from each other and share music, worship, and companionship. It's a really wonderrful experience, with some of the finest musicians, teachers, speakers and programs.

Some of the highlights of my biennial experience:
- seeing my friends. For me, there's an element of reunion about the biennial. Nothing quite matches the hug you get from a friend you haven't seen in a year or two, and the delight at being surprised by someone you didn't know was coming!

- making new friends and connections. I exchanged a lot of business cards, shook a lot of hands. It was like Facebook in real life :) and I loved meeting friends of friends.

- putting faces to names, blogs, twitter handles. There are many people, particularly rabbis, cantors and teachers, among others, that I only know from their blogs or twitter feeds. How wonderful to meet and be together in real life - how delightful to make a "real" friend out of an online friend.

- the one large session I was there for was really great. Honorees were Dr. Avivah Zornberg, who taught marvelous Torah, and Harold Grinspoon, who has given so much to our camping movement. Dr Eboo Patel spoke and truly held the room, fascinates by his explanation of "theology of the bridge" - the idea that every religious tradition, at its heart, has respect for the humanity that God created. The evening ended with a performance by Josh Nelson and Craig Taubman....always wonderful and uplifting.

- my own session - I led, along with four others, a session on social media. Not a how-to session, but more a "why" and "what". I shared some of my own experiences with Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, and really felt that my words had relevance and resonance for the participants. It was fun, too! We had a large screen with a live twitterfeed following the hashtag #urjbiennial - fun to see live tweets coming from within the room.

And now I head home, the Biennial continues on with Shabbat and all the festive ways in which it's celebrated with 2000 of your closest friends. For me, a quieter Shabbat back in Chicago.

I feel that my cup has been filled up with the human connections, the hugs, the smiles of recognition and the new relationships formed.


naomicatgirl said...

Sorry to have missed your session! We are hoping to get there over the weekend - my son had a taste with a concert at his school yesterday. Hope you found Toronto to be a hospitable place! (I live here, so I know how it can be!)

Lisa Colton said...

You added so much to the Biennial this year! I am honored to have met you and bonded - on and offline!