Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, announced his intention to retire in June 2012 at a meeting of the URJ Board of Trustees on June 10, 2010. The Union represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across the United States and Canada.
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, expressed praise for Rabbi Yoffie's dynamic leadership, saying "Rabbi Yoffie has led the Union for Reform Judaism with integrity, intellect, and vision. His and the URJ's vital partnership with the College-Institute demonstrates a passionate commitment to the Jewish future."
Installed as president in June 1996, Rabbi Yoffie has led the Reform Movement in exciting new directions, moving congregational life toward greater attention to Torah study and adult literacy. Rabbi Yoffie has spearheaded a major expansion of the Union's summer camping program. In 2005 he introduced the Sacred Choices curriculum to teach sexual ethics to teens in camps and congregations.
Rabbi Yoffie has announced two worship initiatives. The first, in 1999, was designed to help congregations become "houses in which we pray with joy." The second, eight years later, encouraged congregations to rethink their Shabbat morning worship and fostered Shabbat observance among individual Reform Jews.
Rabbi Yoffie has been a pioneer in interfaith relations and has launched Movement-wide dialogue programs with both Christians and Muslims. In 2005, he was the first Jew to address the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Later that year, he harshly criticized the Religious Right for its exclusionary beliefs but in 2006 he accepted the invitation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell to address the students and faculty of Liberty University, where he spoke frankly of areas of agreement and disagreement. In 2007 Rabbi Yoffie was the first leader of a major Jewish organization to speak at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America.
Rabbi Yoffie has also been deeply involved in issues of social justice and community concern. A prominent spokesperson for sensible gun control, he was the only religious leader to appear at the Million Mom March in Washington, DC. He has also worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish state and the rights of Reform Jews in Israel, and meets frequently with Israel's elected officials to present the concerns of the Reform Movement and North American Jewry.
Before becoming President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Yoffie served as Union Vice-President, as the Executive Director of ARZA (the Association of Reform Zionists of America), and as Director of the Union's Midwest Council. A product of the Reform Movement, he once served as a national vice-president of NFTY.
Raised in Worcester, MA, Rabbi Yoffie was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1974, and served congregations in Lynbrook, NY, and Durham, NC, before joining the Union in 1980.
He is married to Amy Jacobson Yoffie. The couple has two children, Adina and Adam, and resides in Westfield, NJ.
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu