Frequently Asked Questions: Biennial Basics
What is the URJ Biennial?
The URJ Biennial is the place for Jews from across North America and the World to learn, pray, share ideas, dance and sing while helping shape the future of the Reform Movement. Over the course of 5 days, more than 5,000 participants study ancient texts with leading Jewish minds; share ideas on strengthening congregational life; explore the social justice issues of our day; and dance, sing, and pray with diverse clergy and song leaders from around the world.
Who should attend the URJ Biennial?
Biennial has something for everyone! While much of our workshop programming is designed for congregational leaders, plenary sessions energize and inspire all attendees to repair our world, contribute to the continuing evolution of our Movement, and define 21st century Jewish thought. Participants will learn from the highest caliber speakers, including eminent scholars, HUC-JIR faculty, and elected officials.
Additionally, Shabbat is an experience unlike any other, as we come together to create the largest synagogue in the world.
Registration packages are available for the duration of Biennial, Wednesday-Friday, and Friday evening-Sunday. Please note there is a $200 surcharge for registrants who are not members of URJ congregations.
Congregations are encouraged to send large delegations to Biennial to take advantage of all the great learning and networking opportunities. For group pricing information, visit the Delegations page.
What are the dates of the URJ Biennial?
The Biennial program begins at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, December 6, and formal programming concludes at 11:00 AM on Sunday, December 10.
New this year: a community-wide concert at 2 PM on Sunday, December 10th which will be open all Biennial attendees and the Boston Jewish community. The Exhibit Hall, which includes dozens of Judaica and Jewish lifestyle vendors, will also be open on Sunday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
On Wednesday, December 6, prior to the start of the Biennial, there will be a series of offsite programs through the Boston community in which registrants are encouraged to participate. These trips, which are available for purchase in registration, will include tours of Mayyim Hayyim, the Kennedy Library, and Boston’s West End.
Where is the URJ Biennial located?
The URJ Biennial is located at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA. Room blocks are available at three area hotels that all provide indoor and easy access to the Convention Center.
Once you have completed registration you will be provided a link to complete your hotel booking. We offer the guaranteed lowest rate on rooms in our three contracted hotels. The only way to take advantage of our rates is to book through the links provided in your registration confirmation email.
How can I find out about programming scheduled for the URJ Biennial?
The Biennial website is updated weekly as we confirm our program, and major programmatic news will first be shared in the Biennial 2017 group in The Tent, the URJ’s online community portal for congregational leaders. Updates will also be announced via the URJ’s social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so be sure to follow these accounts.
Program registrants will receive periodic emails with schedule updates, confirmed speakers, and logistical information (sign up for Biennial reminders).
Past Biennials have been honored to welcome President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These speakers often confirm their participation 1-2 weeks prior to the program.
What is the schedule of worship services?
A selection of shacharit (morning) and maariv (evening) service options are available each weekday. Times and locations of all services will be published in the program book and app.
The entire Biennial will gather for Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evening and again for Saturday morning Shabbat services. For many attendees, the Shabbat worship experience is a highlight of the event.
How do I find out if others from my community are attending?
There is an active discussion about Biennial 2017 in The Tent, the URJ’s collaboration platform for congregational leaders, where you can ask questions of others who are planning to attend. Additionally, consider joining your local URJ Community group, which will pair you with leaders in your geographic area.
Will I be able to access the program on my smartphone or tablet?
Yes, a Biennial app that will be available 2-3 weeks before the start of the program. The app will contain schedules, maps, program descriptions, and more. Additionally, attendees will receive a printed program book at onsite registration.
Are there opportunities for children at the URJ Biennial?
While there will be no formal childcare available at the Biennial, a "family room" will be available for participants accompanied by young children who would like a place to sit and relax during the Biennial. Children under the age of 13 are welcome to join their grown ups Wednesday-Friday for no fee. Children staying through Shabbat will be required to purchase a meal package. You can add a child's meal package to your registration for $225 for the entirety of the program, or may purchase just a child's Shabbat dinner for $75.
Will the food provided at the URJ Biennial be kosher?
No. Food served at the URJ Biennial will be kosher-style meaning that dairy and meat products will not be served at the same meal, and no pork or shellfish will be served.
What are my options for kosher meals within and around the Hynes Convention Center?
Boston has several kosher restaurants and catering services, and many are located only 2-3 miles from the Hynes Convention Center.
What are my options for meals, snacks, and beverages around the Convention Center?
There are mulitple restaurants accessible by indoor walkway in the adjoining Prudential Center and Copley Place shopping centers which connect the Biennial hotels to the Convention Center. Additionally, there are dozens of restaurants located within a short walk of the Convention Center, which is located in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. Registrants are automatically entered into the “Show Your Badge” program, which will allow you to save in these nearby shops and restaurants.
How do I book meeting or event space during the URJ Biennial?
If you represent an organization that is interested in hosting a meeting or reception please be in touch with Rachel Stuart (email@example.com) for more details. Please note space is limited for such gatherings.
Are there corporate sponsorship opportunities?
Absolutely. For information about corporate sponsorship please download the prospectus or be in touch with Adam Lennon, the Biennial Sponsorship Manager, at either (646) 590-4557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I purchase a booth for my business in the Exhibit Hall?
Information, including pricing for Exhibit Hall booths, is available on the Exhibitor FAQ page. If you have questions about exhibiting or would like to purchase a booth, contact Marci Nessing at email@example.com.
Are there any security measures I should be aware of?
The safety of our participants is our foremost concern. It is our policy that all participants at the Biennial will be required to wear identification badges at all times. This policy is strictly enforced.
Uniformed and plain-clothes security will be on duty 24 hours a day in all program space, including Biennial hotels.
Additionally, the URJ works with local and federal law enforcement agencies, and security contractors, to ensure the safety of all our guests. While the requests of security personnel may at times be time consuming (e.g. bag checks, metal detectors, credential verification), we appreciate your cooperation.
What is the recommended attire?
Any Biennial veteran will recommend a nice comfortable pair of shoes. Most attendees dress "business casual" except on Shabbat, when most dress in "Shabbat attire" (a jacket and tie are the norm for men and nice slacks/skirts/dresses are the norm for women). It is also a good idea to have a sweater or light jacket on hand.
Will there be a coat check available?
While there isn’t a coat check available in the Convention Center, all hotels are accessible via indoor walkway.
What are the locations and dates of future URJ Biennials?
The 2019 URJ Biennial will take place in Chicago, Illinois, December 11-15, 2019. The 2021 URJ Biennial will take place outside Washington, D.C., December 8-11, 2021, and the 2023 URJ Biennial will take place in Orlando, FL, November 8-12, 2023.
I have additional questions about the URJ Biennial. Who should I contact?
For additional questions, and registration assistance, please email Biennial Registrar, Ashlie Davis, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 943-2969 or (404) 477-5813 between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM ET.
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