URJ Biennial: A Teen Perspective

We’ve heard what the URJ Biennial was like from Temple President David Weisberg and VP Michelle Markowitz, but adults weren’t the only ones who attended. Temple member Rebecca Schwartz, a junior at Mt. Lebanon Senior High School, shares her experience:

I often say that it takes two meetings to bring someone into your life: At the first meeting, you get to know someone; at the second meeting, you realize how much you missed them. For me the Biennial was first and foremost a chance to reconnect with the friends I met this summer at the URJ Kutz camp. Honestly, had I just been trapped in the teen lounge with them for the entire Biennial, it would have been enjoyable.

However, we weren’t trapped. For the first time, teens were fully integrated into the adult programming for Biennial. It was amazing; my friends and I were often the youngest ones in the room. We studied the entirety of Genesis chapter 37, learned about environmental activism, and attended an amazing workshop about the relationship between Judaism and Science. (If you have ever had a conversation with me, you can bet I enjoyed that workshop.)

The most amazing part of the conference was the services (yes, even the three hour Saturday morning service complete with a 40 minute sermon). All the teens sat together on the balcony. It is hard to describe how it feels to pray in a room of 6,000. The prayers echoed and resounded across the room. We even got to lead Havdallah on stage with Dan Nichols.

It was so amazing to be at the Biennial, running through the hallways with my friends to chase various Jewish musicians, waking my friends up super early to go to services, and taking nine flights of stairs in high heels because we were so full of energy that we didn’t want to wait for the elevator. Biennial was the first time I realized that adults could be just as into Judaism as teens. It was awesome.

Rebecca (second from right) and friends at the URJ Biennial. Josh Nelson, a Jewish musician, is on the far left.