Audacious Biennial




This was my first biennial and I had no idea how awesome it would be! So much to choose from that it is overwhelming, but it was a constant learning opportunity and I so wished that all of you were there with me.

There was fabulous music, inspiring services, excellent teachings about every aspect of Jewish community life.

A special highlight from the first night was Rabbi Rick Jacobs powerful, inspiring address to us. He so passionately described a vision of community Audacious Hospitality. His words echo the themes which we have discussed as a Board over the last few years, and I know that his leadership will inspire all of us to continue to bring our community to higher and higher levels of inspired engagement. I encourage you to view the keynote and discuss with me how we can be more audacious at TBO.

Susan Levinson, President




Years ago, when we were checking out the University of Michigan, we made it a point to go to Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. Little did we realize when we were eating our bagels that we will sitting in the hub of a multifaceted corporation which – as of last year – did sales of close to $50 million!  They have but this one shop, but there are also a number of offshoots like Zingerman’s Creamery, Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Candy, Bakehouse (all of which are available through mail order), and Zingtrain, the enterprise which trains executives in the Zingerman mode of customer service.

We attended a session with Zingerman’s Co-founding Partner and CEO, Ari Weinzweig (pictured) during which he talked about their model of customer service. He spoke about the importance of having a unifying vision, which informed the culture, principles and systems at Zingerman’s and resulted in “Great food! Great Service! Great finance!”  Part of great service means making sure that each employee understands the vision and their responsibility in maximizing the experience of the customer.

We got into the discussion of how improving “customer service” at Temples is more important than ever, and what that might mean. But many of us also raised the idea that Temples have the additional mission of wanting  members to see themselves, not so much as customers who come to synagogues on a “fee for service” basis, but more as participants in sacred communities who are there to serve, not just to be served. 

Rabbi Don Rossoff

URJ Biennial Day 2

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On Day 2 of the Biennial I attended an amazing session on how to bring modern, Israeli poetry into prayer and curriculum through music. It was awesome (and I took lots of notes to share with my colleagues at TBO). Continued with amazing networking discussing everything from High Holiday services, alternative religious school experiences, and the changing role of parents in the education landscape.

I presented my workshop to a group of dedicated professionals who understand that the role of the early educator encompasses more than running the pre-school. It is gratifying presenting the collaborative model that has worked so successfully in our temple. An innovative professional staff, creative programming, strong local and national partnerships – these provide the foundation for continued success. We know that early learning evolves into family engagement, and this is one way we reach our goal of “Connecting Tradition to Life.”

I finished the day with dinner with my Early Childhood colleagues, and then attended an inspiring plenary session with an impactful speech by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. He spoke of “audacious hospitality,” the future of the Reform movement, and our important relationship with Israel. I urge you to go to and watch this speech. We are rebooting Reform Judaism and we are all responsible for its success.   

Tomorrow brings more opportunity! More love from San Diego!

Jennie Rubin, Director of Early Childhood Education


Day One of the Biennial



It has been an extraordinary first day at Biennial. The San Diego Convention center is beautiful, and the weather is amazing. I started as a greeter at the ECE-RJ booth at the Kikar Biennial Village.

It was incredible meeting professionals from all over the country. The best part was meeting people who stopped by just to say what at impact pre-school had on their families. Truly validating.

Next, I was a congregational consultant on Early Childhood and Family engagement in the “consultation corner.” I spent 2 hours brainstorming, strategizing and networking with lay leaders, educators, and other professionals. I had an amazing dinner with colleagues from Arizona and Ohio, and am finishing my evening listening to Sam Glaser, Todd Herzog and other musicians from the Reform movement serenade us in the Hyatt.

I present my workshop tomorrow, and look forward to telling you about all I’ve learned at the sessions I will be attending. Love from San Diego!

Jennie Rubin, Director of Early Childhood Education

Bringing the Biennial to TBO

This week, from Wednesday through Sunday, Temple President Susan Levinson, Past President and member of the URJ Board, Stuart Rayvid, Barbara Rayvid, Cantor Galit Dadoun Cohen, Debbi Farkas, Jennie Rubin, Fran and I will be attending the Biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the umbrella organization of North American Reform Temples. The URJ Biennial, held this year in San Diego, is the largest Jewish religious gathering in North America, bringing together nearly 5,000 people from more than 500 congregations and 14 countries. We will be joining with other lay leaders and professionals from Reform congregations, youth, college students, congregants, future and new leaders, clergy, scholars, affiliates, vendors, entertainers and musicians, to learn, pray, share ideas, dance and  sing, hear from inspiring guest speakers, reunite with old friends, create new connections, and make decisions about the  policies of the Reform Movement.

Among the featured speakers will be

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

Julian Bond, Former Chairman NAACP, former President of Southern Poverty Law Center, and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Center, and Chairwoman, Women of the Wall

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Ruth Calderon, Jewish Educator and Member of Israeli Knesset, Yesh Atid

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

Prof. Dr. Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History.

Jay Feinberg, Founder and CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation

Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

Mark Bittman, Lead Food Writer, New York Times

Ari Weinzweig, Co-Owner & Founding Partner, Zingerman’s Delicatessen i

And we are proud to announce that our own Pre-School Director, Jennie Rubin, will be a presenter at a session on Reform Early Childhood Education.

We hope to make you part of this exciting experience, so watch this blog for further “TBO Updates from the URJ Biennial. “

–          Rabbi Donald Rossoff