Rabbi Rick Jacobs has been on the road since he became president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America last June, visiting synagogues across the country and addressing issues facing the Jewish community — chiefly, how to retain and attract young people.
This week, the New York-based leader made his first visit to the Twin Cities area as head of the Reform movement — the largest Jewish denomination in North America with close to 1 million members. He met with rabbis and other Jewish leaders at several synagogues — two of which are celebrating significant milestones.
On Friday, he helped pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman’s ordination at Temple Israel, one of the country’s largest Reform congregations with close to 6,000 attendees. He also attended Shir Tikvah in Minneapolis, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a congregation. On Saturday, he’s set to address the congregation at Mount Zion in St. Paul.
So what’s his take on metro area Jewish congregations?
“The Twin Cities has some of our strongest congregations with some of the most gifted leaders, who are showing many congregations how to do the adaptive, innovative leading that will keep congregations strong,” Jacobs said. “In terms of worship, it’s alive and vital and engaging. … The congregations here are also strong on social justice issues, caring for the impoverished.”
One of the key challenges facing Reform congregations — as well as other religious denominations — is how to keep young people interested and active in organized faith.
“There’s really a challenge across North America to make sure … young adults find their place within the Jewish community,” Jacobs said. “We’re very busy thinking with congregations — especially the dynamic and really effective congregations we have in the Twin Cities. This is a challenge … to find those new strategies to make sure younger people, including young families, find their place within congregational life.”