Worship at URJ Biennial

Worship is a highlight for participants at URJ Biennial.  Each day there are wonderful and diverse prayer choices, morning and evening, modeling the way the Reform Movement is challenging how we pray: considering equity and inclusion, full body movement or yoga, diverse theologies and music, new thinking from abroad, and moments of quiet and meditation we need during a busy conference.  


Our week culminates in truly unique and energizing Shabbat services.  Nowhere is Shabbat prayer like it is at Biennial!  More than 5,000 Reform Jews will join with dynamic clergy from around North America, an expert band and 100-person volunteer choir from across our congregations.  We will be strengthened by sharing our sacred texts in one voice, dancing and connecting with one another, and hearing words of Torah and poetry to highlight our URJ Biennial 2019 experience.  

In addition to wonderful music and worship learning in the Music Lab, two worship workshops for lay and clergy may be of interest!  Wednesday 3:00 - 4:15 "Talking Worship in Your Congregation" for clergy and lay partners and Friday 2:00 - 3:15 "DIY services: Worship for Small Congregations without Clergy"


8:00 AM  -  8:45 AM

Tefilat Shalom: A Service of Welcome  

Each of us has traveled from around the world to be together for prayer, study and to share our collective Jewish experience as one community. Join us for a welcoming Shacharit as we give thanks for all of our journeys which brought us together.

  • Rabbi Anthony Fratello, 

  • Cantor Lisa Doob

6:15 PM  -  7:00 PM

Setting the Intention - Opening Night Maariv  (Worship)

We come to Biennial from many places, with hopes to glean many things from our time here together; inspiration and creative ideas for vibrant, meaningful Jewish community, leadership training, networking, engagement with Jewish texts and values, social justice opportunities, music, and so much more. Join us at Ma’ariv for an energizing and uplifting opportunity to worship together and set our individual kavanot (intentions) for our Biennial experience.

  • Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz, 

  • Cantor Ross Wolman


7:30 AM  -  8:30 AM

A Still, Small Voice is Heard 

Our lives are often filled with a cacophony of voices and stimulation. Within this sometimes-noisy stream, we yearn to hear a more quiet, inner voice, one that calls on us for a special quality of listening. Taking its cue from the story of Elijah the prophet, who draws inspiration from a kol d’mamah dakah, a “still, small voice,” the New York campus of HUC-JIR built its August retreat around this theme. In a similar spirit, HUC-JIR students and faculty will lead us in greeting the day with attentiveness and joyful song.

  • Merri Lovinger Arian, 

  • Cantor Richard Cohn, 

  • Toby Glaser, 

  • Thalia Halpert Rodis, 

  • Danielle Rodnizki 

In the Sukkah of Peace: Cultivating an Inner Refuge through Mindful Prayer 

Led by IJS (Institute for Jewish Spirituality) practitioners, we will journey into snippets of the service as invitations to mindful prayer chant that supports an inner prayerful shelter from the storms of our lives - a place that feels safe, spacious, and brimming with aliveness. In this way, we come to experience prayer as a kind of sukkah of peace in its own right. We will also "pull back the curtain" and demonstrate how we developed this orientation to prayer so that you might bring it back to your community. No experience with mindfulness practice needed. All are welcome.

  • Rabbi Sam Feinsmith, 

  • Cantor Aviva Katzman 

Singin' Shacharit 

Young children and their grown-ups are invited to participate in a prayerful, playful service in which music, movement, songs and stories will encourage participants to sing, share, connect, and learn. Participants will experience and learn songs and strategies to engage young children with the morning prayers and themes inspired by liturgy to bring home and share with their congregations. Resource and guidance materials will be provided for those seeking to improve their skills and repertoire for engaging young children through music.  We will have the chance to debrief more at a lunch session on Saturday.

  • Dr. Emily Teck 

The Movement Movement  

Join Noah Aronson and friends as they leads an hour long movement worship experience with original Jewish Electronic Dance Music. This one-of-a-kind experience inspires intentional movement, combining Embodied Prayer and Ecstatic Dance practices.  By creating space to both meditate and celebrate, we will engage in a deeply spiritually connected and shockingly playful prayer experience that you won’t want to miss!

  • Noah Aronson

5:30 PM  -  6:30 PM

Union Prayerbook III: Chicago Sinai Congregation 

Chicago Sinai Congregation just published its third revision of its congregational prayerbook, which continues the evolution of the beloved Union Prayer Book for the modern age. Incorporating readings from a wide spectrum of contemporary settings, the UPB III heightens the traditional focus of the siddur for our modern age. This service celebrating the new publication will be led by the congregation's Rabbis, in keeping with the choral style maintained at Sinai.

  • Rabbi Amanda Greene, 

  • Scott Kumer, 

  • Rabbi Seth Limmer, 

  • Rabbi Todd Zinn 

Until All of Us Are Free, None of Us Is Free 

Join members of the JewV'Nation Fellowship: Jews of Color Cohort and the LGBTQIA+ Cohort in multi-cultural, multi-racial, and inclusive worship.

  • Caroline Dorn, 

  • Bryant Heinzelman, 

  • Dara Lithwick, 

  • Elias Rubin, 

  • Anjelica Ruiz, 

  • Morgan Selkirk, 

  • Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, 

  • Cantor Jennifer Frost 


7:45 AM  -  8:30 AM

Ashreichem Yisrael: Shacharit with Israeli Leaders  

Join the founders of Nigunim Ensemble from Jerusalem, to experience a T'filah that celebrates Israeli sacred music and liturgy.

  • Shani Ben Or, 

  • Boaz Dorot 

Dorot Nashim B’yachad: Generations of Women Working Together 

This morning service will feature the varied and unique voices of women from across generations. All are welcome to join us as we highlight the many contributions that women have made, building on the shoulders of one another and looking towards the future. Come together in song and worship as we strengthen the bonds that tie generation to generation.

  • Cindy Bolokofsky, 

  • Janet Buckstein, 

  • Rabbi Kelly Levy, 

  • Chava Mirel, 

  • Cantor Michelle Rubel 

Rock Siddur B'yachad: Sophisticated School and Family Worship 

Prayer is an intensely personal experience, yet when we come together for worship, we often use words written by someone we have never met and in a language we don’t understand. How can we pray as part of a Jewish community but also derive personal meaning from the siddur? A growing number of synagogues are employing an innovative approach to worship that combines enthusiastic and catchy melodies with rich discourse about the Hebrew texts. Join members of the ARJE for engaged, empowered worship.

  • Cantor Josh Breitzer, 

  • Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, 

  • Saul Kaiserman, 

  • Rabbi Lisa Kingston, 

  • Rabbi Evan Schultz, 

  • Rabbi Allison Tick Brill 

Yoga Shalom: Restorative prayer, chant and embodiment practice  

Yoga Shalom is a unique spiritual worship experience that combines gentle yoga postures, breathing, sacred chant and mindfulness into a restorative body and spirit practice. Yoga Shalom is done sitting in a chair for those wishing a gentle morning wake up and is great for those with limited or more advanced yoga abilities.  It is a nurturing way to begin your day and will leave you energized, centered, and ready to ease into Shabbat at the Biennial.  Open your heart, quiet your mind, and restore your spirit with Yoga Shalom!

  • Cantor Lisa Levine

5:30 PM  -  7:00 PM

Kabbalat Shabbat Services 

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!

  • Rabbi Jill Maderer, 

  • Cantor Daniel Mutlu, 

  • Evan Traylor


8:30 AM  -  9:45 AM

Fabulous Family Shabbat  

Ellen Allard invites you and your young children on a journey of song and story and dance and prayer. Your morning tefilah will include an intimate blessing moment between parents and children, a boisterous bit of jumping and hopping and stamping across the sea, a sweet and tender Shehecheyanu moment, and participation in an interactive Torah parade. Join fellow biennial attendees for this innovative Fabulous Family Shabbat worship experience created to nurture a lifelong connection with Judaism. What do you need to bring? Comfortable shoes and a willingness to move, dance, swing, march, sing, shout and play!

  • Ellen Allard 

10:00 AM  -  12:30 PM

Shabbat Morning Services

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.

  • Rabbi Stacy Friedman, 

  • Cantor Bradley Hyman, 

  • Cantor Elizabeth Sacks, 

  • Rabbi Rick Jacobs

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. We’ll bid farewell to Shabbat together as Elana Arian and Dan Nichols lead us in Havdalah.

  • Elana Arian, 

  • Dan Nichols


8:00 AM  -  8:45 AM

From O'Hare to DCA  

A service looking towards our future and the 2021 Biennial outside Washington, D.C. Join us for this concluding worship service as we pray with our hearts, voices, and feet.

  • Rabbi Rachel Ackerman, 

  • Cantor Jason Kaufman