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Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
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Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is a writer and lecturer, and the President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America. The Union represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across the United States and Canada.

Rabbi Yoffie served as President of the Union from 1996 to 2012; during that time, he led the Reform Movement in exciting new directions, moving congregational life toward greater attention to Torah study and adult literacy. He also spearheaded a major expansion of the Union's summer camping program, and in 2005, he introduced the Sacred Choices curriculum to teach sexual ethics to teens in camps and congregations.

Rabbi Yoffie announced two major worship initiatives during his tenure. 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 Wasington, 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.

Before becoming President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Yoffie served as Director of its Commission on Social Action and as the Executive Director of ARZA (the Association of Reform Zionists of America).

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. His writings are collected at

Entries by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

The Three Mistakes Atheists Make

(831) Comments | Posted August 13, 2014 | 3:52 PM

The God Wars mostly bore me. In my younger days I enjoyed, at least for a while, the intellectual back-and-forth of the God debates. For me, these exchanges had a game-like quality, and it was fun to play the game. How can a student of religion ignore the rational argumentation...

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Brandeis Gets It Right on Islam

(127) Comments | Posted April 10, 2014 | 6:45 PM

Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored university and my alma mater, has withdrawn its offer to give an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, Brandeis changed its mind eight days after announcing the honor to Ms. Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia...

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The Frances Phenomenon and America's Yearning for Values, Leadership and God

(9) Comments | Posted December 31, 2013 | 2:25 PM

There is much vigorous discussion about what the election of Pope Francis will mean for the future of the Catholic Church. Speculation about such matters and all matters of Church doctrine and theology are best left to Catholic believers to address. But of interest to us all is the impact...

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The Bright Future of Liberal Religion

(134) Comments | Posted September 29, 2013 | 10:18 AM

I am filled with optimism about the future of liberal religion in America.

It is not fashionable to hold this view. In both the Jewish and the Christian world, conventional wisdom affirms that the liberal religious groupings are in crisis: Their numbers are falling, their institutions are in decline, their...

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Doubt Is the Heart of Belief

(72) Comments | Posted June 10, 2013 | 10:28 AM

Doubt does not undermine belief. It is central to belief, an indispensable part of accepting God and the mandates of a religious tradition. Even fervent believers have doubts -- lots of them.

The correlation between belief and doubt is not always easy to see, in large measure because of what...

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We Will Not Give Up on Gun Control

(20) Comments | Posted April 18, 2013 | 10:00 AM

Our leaders have failed us, again. And I don't know about you, but as a religious person, I'm angry.

Approximately 90 percent of the American people believe that their fellow Americans should undergo a background check before they are permitted to purchase a gun. But the legislation mandating those background...

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Religion Has Nothing to Fear From the 'Nones'

(126) Comments | Posted April 8, 2013 | 5:05 PM

Hardly a month goes by when we don't read about the decline or collapse of organized religion in America. But religion -- including the organized sort -- remains vital and vibrant, defying the predictions of doom that appear with numbing regularity.

The latest round of these discussions follows the...

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New York Is Right: Tell the Truth on Teen Pregnancy

(17) Comments | Posted March 13, 2013 | 11:10 AM

The City of New York is running an advertising campaign that urges teenage girls not to get pregnant. It is right to do so.

The campaign has drawn fire from Planned Parenthood and others, who say that it is intended to "blame and shame" and is therefore deeply flawed. In...

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The Blessings and Dangers of Wooing Worshipers With Food

(4) Comments | Posted February 20, 2013 | 3:05 PM

Religious leaders have long known that if you want to attract worshipers and increase your membership rolls, food can be a valuable tool. Christian services are often followed by coffee hours, and for Jews, Sabbath worship -- on Friday night or Saturday morning -- is generally followed by a Kiddush....

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The Self-Delusions of Secular Jews

(54) Comments | Posted January 15, 2013 | 1:09 PM

One of the most interesting things that I do as a rabbi is engage in conversations with people who define themselves as "secular Jews" or "cultural Jews." I find it interesting because these are good, serious and thoughtful people, usually deeply committed to Judaism, who struggle with big religious questions...

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Gun Worship Is Blasphemy

(12) Comments | Posted December 18, 2012 | 6:30 PM

Above all, let us remember this: Sensible gun-control is a religious issue.

The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity.

Controlling guns is not only a political matter; it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship...

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What Thanksgiving Tells Us About America, Community, Loneliness and God

(40) Comments | Posted November 21, 2012 | 6:06 AM

Thanksgiving tells us a lot about America, about our yearning for community and connection, about loneliness and about God.

Loneliness destroys us in the same way that bullets and poverty destroy us. It eats away at our spiritual wellbeing. It eviscerates our sense of wholeness.

In fact, loneliness kills. "O...

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Dressing Up for Prayer and for God

(6) Comments | Posted October 18, 2012 | 7:26 AM

It is important, at least occasionally, to dress up for prayer and for God.

During the recently concluded Jewish High Holiday season, which I celebrated in two synagogues located in different metropolitan areas, I found it interesting that my fellow worshipers were a little more formally dressed than they have...

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Yom Kippur: The Battle Of Sin vs. Self

(16) Comments | Posted September 24, 2012 | 8:30 AM

One morning last week, I spent some time reading through the traditional liturgy for Yom Kippur. The Yom Kippur prayers are so stark, jarring, and intensely powerful that I find it impossible to absorb them on Yom Kippur day if I have not prepared myself by studying them in advance....

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The Obligations of American Exceptionalism

(5) Comments | Posted August 31, 2012 | 8:08 AM

I support outsourcing and offshoring. I applaud globalization and free trade. And I do so because of my moral convictions and religious beliefs, and my deep commitment to American exceptionalism.

As the election season heats up, I am troubled by the moral confusion of those who discuss these policies. The...

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When You Shouldn't Say What You Really Think About Other Faith Traditions

(31) Comments | Posted July 25, 2012 | 7:00 AM

Some recent, angry exchanges between leaders of different religious traditions have led me to consider the principles that should guide us when reacting to disagreements with other faith groups.

If I strongly disagree with a Christian or Muslim, I am free to say what I wish, of course, and there...

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Thank God for the Wisdom of the Supreme Court

(137) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 11:13 AM

The Supreme Court has spoken. Yes, there is still much to worry about, but for now, the religious community can breathe a sigh of relief.

For weeks, we have been waiting for the Court to decide the fate of Obamacare. We have listened to endless fulminating from the Tea...

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What Atheism Lacks: Humility, Imagination, Curiosity

(206) Comments | Posted June 20, 2012 | 5:59 PM

As standards of living improve, religious belief will give way to atheism, and atheism's victory over religion will be complete by 2038. So argues Nigel Barber, writing on June 5 in the Science section of the Huffington Post.

Relying on what he calls the "existential security hypothesis,"...

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Jon Stewart Is Hilarious but No Teacher of Religion

(88) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 10:33 AM

In a much discussed article in the new online publication Religion & Politics Journal, New York Times religion reporter Mark Oppenheimer offers an enthusiastic endorsement of Jon Stewart's coverage of religion on "The Daily Show," which Stewart hosts on Comedy Central. "Jon Stewart may not be a believer," writes Oppenheimer,...

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Why Obama and Romney Should Share Their Religious Beliefs

(27) Comments | Posted May 14, 2012 | 12:07 PM

It is not likely that either President Obama or Gov. Romney will say much about their religious beliefs during the upcoming election campaign, and this is unfortunate. If they were to do so, it would be good for them and good for the American people.

America is by far the...

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