Plenary Recordings

Opening Plenary

Wednesday, December 11

4:45 PM - 5:45 PM


URJ Biennial narrator Rabbi Matt Green of Congregation Beth Elohim (Brooklyn, NY) guides us through the Biennial’s plenary sessions, weaving a narrative as we celebrate our incredible guests and speakers.


Kicking off the program is the multi-talented Singer/Songwriter/Performer Michelle Citrin, who will energize us with her music before we’re officially welcomed to the 2019 URJ Biennial by URJ North American Board Chair Daryl Messinger and our wonderful Biennial Co-Chairs, Alec Harris and AnnDee Levy.


We’ll celebrate Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, the first ordained woman cantor, as she accepts the Debbie Friedman Award for Contributions to Jewish Music, and hear from the new president of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Dr. Andrew Rehfeld. Jewish ritual and music will help us start the Biennial experience with kavanah (intention). We’ll also hear powerful and inspiring Reform Jewish stories. And finally, a musical performance by Rick Recht will launch us into a week of joyful learning, singing, and celebrating.

Let the 2019 URJ Biennial begin!  

Thursday Morning Plenary

10:45 AM  -  12:00 PM

Welcome to the first full day of Biennial!

Our plenary starts by welcoming Daryl Messinger, URJ North American Board Chair, back to the stage to open the day’s festivities and continues with the soulful melodies of Cantor Natalie Young.

Let’s talk about change: Amy Asin, URJ Vice President of Strengthening Congregations, will lead a conversation about engagement, transformation, disruption, and innovation. It’ll have everyone in the room asking, “How can we start experimenting with change – in a big way?”

Joining us this morning will be Julie Fisher, volunteer, activist and Founder and Director at Consortium for Israel and the Asylum Seekers along with her husband Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. Together they will accept the Alexander M. Schindler Award for Service to World Jewry. Before the day’s lunch and workshops begin, we’ll be treated to a masterful performance by Jewish-Israeli singer-songwriter Shimon Smith.

Thursday Evening Plenary

8:30 PM - 10:00 PM

We’ll hear one of the most important new musical voices of our Movement, Chava Mirel, before learning about the Reform Movement’s Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice.

We’re honored to present The Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award to Omaha, Nebraska’s Tri-Faith Initiative, whose extraordinary multi-faith work models pluralism and outstanding partnerships for us all. And we'll hear from leadership of the Reform Movement in Israel to hear learn about how to make your voice heard for those values in Israel by voting in the World Zionist Congress elections.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs will address the Biennial with his decisive and purposeful vision for our Reform future, challenging us to think about how we can move forward not just with good intentions but with great impact.

The incomparable Josh Nelson will treat us to a rockin’ musical performance before we disperse to enjoy the evening’s final festivities.

Friday Morning Plenary

10:45 AM  -  12:00 PM

What better way to start the day than with energized sounds of musician Noah Aronson? Speaking of inspiring, we begin with a call to action: We’ll talk about our Jewish social Justice mandate, launch our civic engagement campaign, and present the latest URJ resolutions for ratification by Biennial delegates.

Finally, we’ll say hello to our new Board Chair, and hear the spirited music of Sheldon and Hadar that will leave us impassioned, empowered, and ready to embrace the day – and to look toward Shabbat.

Kabbalat Shabbat Services 

5:30 PM  -  7:00 PM

We will end our dynamic week of learning how to use our voices to bring real change home, with a chance to breathe and reflect. Gathering as one community, we will have a chance to, to sing, to listen to our hearts, to hear one another, and see each other as unique in our sacred story. Full of joy and celebration, with a chance to sit quietly and relax, our Shabbat Tefilah will be a highlight of our Biennial! Featuring: Rabbi Jill Maderer, Cantor Daniel Mutlu, and Evan Traylor.

Shabbat Song Session

8:45 PM  -  9:30 PM

We'll welcome more than a dozen of our Movement's greatest singers, musicians, and song leaders to what promises to be the most monumental Biennial song session ever! Come share the unique ruach (spirit) created by singing with 5,000 of your fellow attendees. It's an event not to be missed!

Shabbat Morning Services

10:00 AM  -  12:30 PM

Our Shabbat morning worship will elevate the joy of being together, engaging our whole selves in body, mind and spirit. Through joyful singing, engaging ideas, and celebration of Torah, we will celebrate innovation amongst tradition, quietude and dance.

Closing Plenary & Havdalah

8:00 PM  -  10:00 PM

The final plenary of the URJ Biennial will kick off with the dynamic and stirring music of both Elana Arian and Walt Whitman’s Soul Children of Chicago. Historian and author Deborah Lipstadt – winner of the Albert D. Charnin Award from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs – will take the plenary stage to impart her wisdom and insight.

We’ll bid farewell to Shabbat together as Elana Arian, Deb WInter, and Dan Nichols lead us in Havdalah. And then, get ready to laugh: Renowned comedians from The Second City join us for a private, personalized show that’s sure to entertain and delight.

As the Biennial concludes, Dan Nichols will lead us in a song session to reflect on the exceptional, encouraging, and enlivening week we’ve all shared together – and, of course, to look ahead to the URJ Biennial 2021.

L’hitraot, friends.