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Rabbi Rick Jacobs


Compass with the arrow pointing at the word "Leadership"

February is a month of fostering leadership at the Union for Reform Judaism. It’s something we do here all the time, of course, but this month, especially, with the Scheidt Seminar and NFTY Convention, we shine a spotlight on the extraordinary role that individuals of all ages play in strengthening our sacred community.

This month of leadership reminds me of a saying from the Babylonian Talmud that offers us two important and interwoven lessons: 1) The character of a generation is determined by its leader, and 2) The character of a leader is determined by the generation.  


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Graphic of Israeli flag, Palestinian flag and Israel

Because of my deep admiration for Michelle Alexander’s brilliant work on the unfinished tasks of civil rights, I eagerly read her recent New York Times piece, hoping she’d shed new light on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Instead, this endlessly complicated and painful conflict was simplified in Alexander’s narrative, with Israel shouldering complete responsibility for the deplorable status quo. Right-wing voices that put the blame solely on Palestinians make the same reductionist mistake.

Let me be perfectly clear: As a lifelong Zionist, I believe in the justice and rights of...

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Collage of Rabbi Rick Jacobs and other Reform leaders on Capitol Hill with members of the 116th Congress

I’m writing from the “Quiet Car” on a train back to New York after a long, wonderful day on Capitol Hill. I was in Washington, D.C., to celebrate with some old friends, and some new friends, as they were sworn in as members of the 116th Congress.

No matter your political leanings, it would have been difficult not to be inspired by the energy and new sense of possibility that was palpable all across the capital as the new Congress was installed. The diversity of the new class is remarkable and bodes well for our future; the record number of women in the freshman class was a story...

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Closeup of a person wearing a Star of David necklace against a blue sweater

A new CNN-Pew poll reveals a chilling truth that alas, we already know: anti-Semitism is alive and well, both in Europe and in the U.S. According to the findings, “more than a quarter of Europeans polled believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.”

Similarly, nearly half the 557 respondents in a survey of Dutch Jews said they were afraid of identifying publicly as Jews by wearing kippot.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan, who is tightening suppression of...

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Pathway in green grass painted with 2019 2020 and 2021

Seven years ago, just as I began my tenure as president of the Union for Reform Judaism, I stood before our Movement at the Biennial and shared the following:

“We are poised at one of the most critical and dramatic crossroads in all of Jewish history. If we stay put and leave things as they are, we will have failed the test of Jewish leadership. But we’re not going to stay put. We are the Reform Movement, and we’re going to get moving. We’re going to move forward with strength and creativity.”

Or, as our founder Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise put it more succinctly in 1854, “...

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