Rabbi Rick Jacobs in his formal installation as president of the Union for Reform Judaism called on the movement to “chart a new course.”
Saturday’s installation took place at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Jacobs, 56, in his prepared remarks also urged the movement to “create a robust presence in digital media, on campus, across town and around the world, so that all who are hungry for inspiring spirituality, passionate prayer, probing study and social justice can find their way to us.”
He noted two things he shares with President Abraham Lincoln: “He dedicated himself to the preservation of the Union, and I have dedicated myself to the preservation of the Union. And we are both inclined to invoke Scripture on occasions such as this.”
In addition, Rabbi Jacobs said that like Lincoln, he stands 6-feet-4. “He’s still on record as the tallest president in U.S. history,” the rabbi said, and “I’m the tallest president in URJ history.”
Rabbi Jacobs, the rabbi emeritus at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., was elected in June 2011 to succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who held the position since 1996 and whose term officially ends June 30. He takes the helm of the movement as it faces challenges in the New York area. The new UJA-Federation of New York population survey, which was released this week, finds that the percentage of Reform Jews in the five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester fell from 24 percent of the area’s Jewish population in 2002 to 20 percent today, a loss of some 40,000 adherents.
The service included an intergenerational Torah procession of former chairs of the URJ board of trustees accompanied by teen members of the North American Federation of Temple Youth. It featured performances by the Greater Centennial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Mass Choir of Mount Vernon, N.Y., neighbors of Westchester Reform Temple, and musicians Josh Nelson and Michelle Citrin.
For an excerpt from Rabbi Jacobs’ sermon, go to The Jewish Week’s website, www.thejewishweek.com.